An Accidentally Bad Argument for the Electoral Vote-by-Congressional-District Split

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Jan. 15 2013 11:14 AM

An Accidentally Bad Argument for the Electoral Vote-by-Congressional-District Split

Aaron Blake matter-of-factly explains the reasons for, and the horrible optics of, the Republican idea of splitting up states' electoral votes by gerrymandered districts. It's nice to see the stakes described so cleanly (had Ohio, Michigan, Virginia, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin split their votes in 2012, Romney could have taken Florida and won), but the "local control" argument is given too much credit.

[RNC Chairman Reince] Priebus, in announcing his support for the push, emphasized the change would create greater “local control,” and an argument could be made that it would encourage presidential candidates to pay closer attention to their states.
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To these states? Really? Look at the list again: Ohio, Michigan, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin. Three of them -- Wisconsin, Ohio, Virginia -- were hotly contested swing states, visited on the final weekend of the campaign by Obama-Biden and Romney-Ryan. The other two were swing states as recently as 2004, when Republicans nominated a candidate who was in favor of immigration reform and had passed an expansion of Medicare -- a more moderate Republican, it turns out, competed more strongly in Pennsylvania and Michigan. But current demographics and party loyalties will probably help Ohio, Virginia, Colorado, Florida, stay more relevant, more courted by candidates, than other states.

The only non-power grab argument I can see for the electoral vote split is that candidates who had to worry more about rural and exurban voters might shift their stances on some policies. If the coal county voter counts more than the Richmond voter, then maybe the canddiate panders a bit more on coal. But has anyone come up with an issue that's not already given extra oomph by the current arrangement of swing states? Anything?

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter.