Michigan Republican: Splitting Up Electoral College Votes Would Prevent Detroit Voters From "Distorting" Results

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Dec. 17 2012 3:44 PM

Michigan Republican: Splitting Up Electoral College Votes Would Prevent Detroit Voters From "Distorting" Results

In the last few weeks, a small number of Republican legislators -- all in states that voted for Barack Obama -- have talked about splitting up their electoral votes. When I wrote about this, I got a few comments along the lines of "hey, is this a trend, or are you scaremongering?"

David Weigel David Weigel

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

No. It's a trend. Reid Wilson reports that Wisconsin, along with Michigan and Pennsylvania, is home to Republicans who might press their gerrymandered legislative advantage to assign electoral votes by gerrymandered congressional districts.

"If you did the calculation, you'd see a massive shift of electoral votes in states that are blue and fully [in] red control," said one senior Republican taking an active role in pushing the proposal. "There's no kind of autopsy and outreach that can grab us those electoral votes that quickly."
The proposals, the senior GOP official said, are likely to come up in each state's legislative session in 2013. Bills have been drafted, and legislators are talking to party bosses to craft strategy. Saul Anuzis, the former chairman of the Michigan Republican Party, has briefed Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus and Chief of Staff Jeff Larson on his state's proposal. The proposal "is not being met with the 'We can't do that' answer. It's being met with 'I've already got a bill started,' " the official said.
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I called Anuzis this afternoon to follow up on the story. As a lobbyist for the National Popular Vote campaign, he personally favors a plan that would scrap the electoral college. If enough states passed NPV bills, we'd move to a full-on popular vote system.

But that, he says, is not the bill moving in the Republican-run House. Peter Lund, the committee chairman who would move on electoral college reform, favors a plan that would assign electoral votes by the winners of districts, then assign the remaining two votes to the state's popular vote winner. In 2012, this would have given Mitt Romney nine of Michigan's 16 electors, even though Romney lost the state by 450,000 votes.

"People do not like the current system of winner take all," said Anuzis. "What [reformers] are trying to do is make sure the votes are representative. Right now, you get 100 percent of electors whether you get 50.1 percent of the vote or 90 percent of the vote. I think the congressional district plan would be more representative. If you go back to what the founding fathers intended, it was what was in the best interest in the state. And there's a growing belief that making sure every vote counts matters."

This sounded good, but misleading. The 2011 gerrymander packed most Michigan Democrats into a few districts in the southeastern part of the state, around Detroit. (Democrats remained fairly competitive in the rural district that covers the upper peninsula.) Wouldn't this reform reduce the impact of voters who happened to live in urban areas?

"Congressional districts are divided equally based on population," said Anuzis. "This is the question: Is the one man one vote principle more important than the overall state vote? If you move away from that, and into something proportional, then the city of Detroit's votes don't distort the rest of the state. Each area is represented."

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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