Michigan’s legislative session is almost over, but an outgoing state lawmaker may still revive a voting bill that could rig the electoral college for Republicans.
Rep. Pete Lund (R) told Bridge Magazine that he plans to introduce a bill during the lame-duck session that would change the way electoral votes are counted. The new plan would make it more likely that a Republican could win the presidency, even though, as Bridge reports, “overall state voting patterns trend Democratic.” Twice before, Lund introduced bills that would achieve the Republican skew by changing how the electoral college works. Rather than having all 16 of the state’s electoral votes for president go to the candidate who gets the most state votes, as the system does now, the these proposals would give each congressional district one presidential vote, plus two extras for the winner.
The problem, as Bridge explains, is that “[b]ecause of the way the state’s congressional districts are drawn, Republicans dominate the vast majority of districts” despite state voting patterns that favor Democrats. In other words, the plan would magnify the impact of congressional gerrymandering designed to maximize Republican wins in Congress so that it would also shift the outcome of the presidential election.
This isn’t just a Michigan initiative. Over the past few years, several Republican lawmakers have coordinated behind a plan that would rig the Electoral College by shifting to plans like Michigan’s in several key blue states, while maintaining the current rules in red states.
Here’s how this plan would have affected Michigan, if it had been in place in 2012. In that year’s presidential election, President Obama won the blue state by nearly ten points. But if the new plan had been adopted, “Gov. Romney would have received 9 of the state’s 16 electoral votes because he received more votes than the president did in nine of the state’s congressional districts,” Ian Millhiser explains in a Center for American Progress report. “In other words,” he adds, “the Republican candidate would receive more than half of the state’s electoral votes despite being overwhelmingly defeated in the state as a whole.” Similar results would have occurred in five other key states:
The originator of the idea was Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett (R), and his idea was endorsed soon after by Republican National Committee Chair Reince Priebus. Others including Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI) and Ohio Republican Secretary of State John Husted have at least expressed interest in the plan.
The plan has seen some loss in momentum since then. In his two past attempts, Lund hasn’t succeeded in getting his bill through in Michigan. And even Gov. Rick Snyder (R) has said he was at least “skeptical” of the plan, during a period when several state bills died in the legislature as Republicans came out against the proposal. But aside from Lund, lawmakers in other states including Florida have continued to reintroduce the plan.
Lund told Bridge he is pushing the bill because, “[r]ight now, Michigan is meaningless in the electoral process,” and candidates don’t spend time in the state. But as a University of California at Berkeley study documents, presidential candidates are still unlikely to spend time in states that are unlikely to swing. And as Bridge points out, “the two states that currently split their electoral votes by congressional district — Nebraska and Maine — don’t get a lot of campaign stops.”
Lund reportedly introduced his bill late Thursday, with a compromise plan that would likely shift some of the state’s electoral votes to Republicans, but perhaps not quite as many. Under Lund’s new bill, votes would not be based on congressional district. They would, however, still enable Michigan to split its votes among multiple candidates, rather than giving all of the state’s electoral votes to the winning candidate, as most states do.
Here’s how it would work, according to Michigan Live: “Michigan would award at least 9 of its 16 electoral college votes to the winner of the popular vote in the presidential election. The top candidate would receive additional electoral votes based on how much they beat the second-place finisher by in one-on-one vote totals. Each 1.5 points above 50 percent would mean another electoral vote. Remaining electoral votes would go to the runner up. A candidate who finishes third or lower would not receive any.”
Under this system, the report explains, Obama would have won 12 out of 16 Michigan electoral votes, and the four remaining would have gone to Mitt Romney. This would have given Romney a significant leg up over the zero votes he actually received, although not quite as many votes as under Lund’s previous proposal. It would nonetheless achieve the result of skewing the election outcome toward the GOP in blue states, while red states that haven’t reformed their laws retain the old model in which the Republican winner gets all of that state’s votes.