No, No, No, Don't Split Electoral Votes By Congressional District

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Nov. 9 2012 9:34 AM

No, No, No, Don't Split Electoral Votes By Congressional District

Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney walks from the podium after delivering his concession speech in Boston, Massachusetts, November 7, 2012. AFP PHOTO / Pool / Rick Wilking (Photo credit should read RICK WILKING/AFP/Getty Images)

Photo by RICK WILKING/AFP/Getty Images

The PlunderBund blog makes a great catch from Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted's post-election presser.

Husted argued that because of the high stakes involved with being an electoral vote-rich swing state, Ohio’s elections chief is always scrutinized and criticized. (Funny, we don’t remember that happening in 2008, but that’s beside the point).
Husted’s solution to this perceived problem of Democrats and the national media picking on him? He says we should make Ohio less important in the election by dividing up our electoral votes by Congressional district.

Didn't we stake this vampire already? Most states allow whatever party holds power at the start of each decade to map their congressional districts. In this data-heavy era, parties take the opportunity to pack their opponents into a small number of districts, and spread their own voter over a maximum number of marginally safe districts. The result: It's possible for the other party to win most of the votes for House in a state, but take away only a few districts.

See Pennsylvania, which actually debated an electoral vote split concept last year. Democrats narrowly won more votes in House races than the Republicans won. That netted them five of the state's 18 seats, because their vote was packed into gerrmanders in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and the Lehigh Valley. Barack Obama won the popular vote in, apparently, six districts. Had an electoral vote-by-district plan been in place, most Pennsylvanians would have voted for Barack Obama, but Mitt Romney would have won 12 of the state's 20 votes. Had this been in place across all states gerrymandered by parties last year, Obama would have won four votes in North Carolina despite losing it. And Romney would have won 10 votes in Ohio, despite losing it.

I can't overstate how disastrous this would be. Instead of a small chance of a popular vote/electoral vote split, you'd have, every four years, multiple chances for a majority of voters to support one candidate, but partisan gerrymanders handing the election to the loser. It would slant the election away from urban areas and give disproportionate powers to rural areas. You couldn't come up with a more tenacious assault on one-man-one-vote. Don't do it, people.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 


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