26 January 2013

Possible GOP plans for the Electoral College in a number of states - and my idea

As you all know, a number of state GOP parties are seriously considering changing the way their respective states cast electors in the next presidential election.

Virginia is probably the most glaring example, as the VA GOP not only wants to move to the electoral-vote-split method, ala ME and NE, they also want to allot the two electors that would stand for that states's two senators to the winner of the highest number of congressional districts and not based on the winner of the popular vote in that state.

Before Conservatives start to think I am trying to flame them or anyone, hear me out first.

1.) What they are considering is absolutely legal. The constitution is very vague on the "Electoral College" as we know it. BTW, the term "Electoral College" does not exist in the US Constitution. Not only that, there is absolutely no proscription that electors from any state are bound to the results of any popular vote, for at the time that the Constitution was written, the NPV did not even exist. It has been taken for granted among people of common sense and goodwill that this is the right thing to do, but it is in no way mandated by the Constitution. In other words, if they have the votes to do it, they can do it. If they pay a heavy political price for it, that is their problem, not mine.

2.) The GOP in those states will point to ME an NE as examples of successful elector-splitting, but I will remind, both of those states have a relatively small number of electors (ME has 4, NE has 5) and only once has an elector split from the overall winner of the state: the elector for NE-02, for Obama in 2008. Not only that, there is a certain balance of power between these two states, with ME being considered a core DEM state, while NE is considered a core GOP state and never even once in our history has either of these states been the so-called "tipping point" state on election night. Not even once. That is not the case with a state like Ohio or Colorado or Virginia, or Pennsylvania.

3.) What will seem to be totally rotten in Denmark is that the GOP is intending to do this only in states that have been or are perceived to be battleground states that have tended blue in the last presidential elections, but they are not doing this in any large core GOP states.

Larry Sabato of the "Crystal Ball" had some unusually harsh and choice words about this:

Larry J. Sabato's Crystal Ball » REPUBLICAN ELECTORAL COLLEGE PLAN WOULD UNDERMINE DEMOCRACY

"We have asked Crystal Ball Senior Columnist Alan Abramowitz, Alben W. Barkley Professor of Political Science at Emory University, to examine the proposal and outline its likely effects. As we suspected, it would permit a GOP nominee to capture the White House even while losing the popular vote by many millions. This is not a relatively small Electoral College “misfire” on the order of 1888 or 2000. Instead, it is a corrupt and cynical maneuver to frustrate popular will and put a heavy thumb — the whole hand, in fact — on the scale for future Republican candidates. We do not play presidential politics with a golf handicap awarded to the weaker side."

Go to the article to read the rest, it is full of information.

4.) Whether you like it or not, it appears to me that the GOP is being very, very shortsighted about this because of two words:

ELECTORAL SHIFT.

As more snowbelt states continue to lose in population, which is migrating mostly into the sunbelt states, the statistical probability is very high that a number of those snowbelt states could very conceivably become reliably red states in the next 20 years, including MN, WI and PA. But at the same time, the increase in metropolises in the sunbelt invariably leads to more liberal thought, and some of those states could very well become blue states in the next 20 years, like AZ or TX or GA. So, were the GOP to get elector splitting through in just two states, say, VA and PA, and then in eight years, TX, with it's whopping 38 EV, were to go blue and the GOP would lose in the EC by 10 electors but would have won VA and PA overall, then the very thing they want to do now could easily backfire on them and actually cause THEM to lose an election in the EC despite winning in the NPV.

5.) We have choices - we have always had choices. Here are three:

a.) Abolish the Electoral College per amendment to the US constitution through one of the two avenue available: grassroots movement in 3/4 of all states, requiring the congress to take it up, or the congress can take it up and then send it to the state for ratification and as soon as the requisite number of states have ratified, the EC would be gone and we would elect our top-ticket purely by means of the national popular vote. 

We can also do this quite legally via the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact,which would not eliminate the EC but render it useless by having states whose composite number of electors equals a majority in the EC sign an compact that they will cast their electors en mass for the winner of the National Popular Vote, regardless of who actually won that state on election night. If you think this is illegal, think again. This is absolutely legal, for the same reason that each state can change its method of electoral voting - ambiguity in the US Constitution, which allows for Federalism to rule the day in this case. 

Right now, 8 states + DC have joined the compact, worth 124 EV at this time. All eight of those states are "blue" states, but this may change soon: the compact is going through a number of statehouses this year. In AR, CT, DE, ME, MI, NV, NM, NY, NC and OR, the compact has successfully passed though one house of that state's legislature. In RI And CO it has passed through both at least once. There were campaigns to repeal the compact in MD and NJ, but they failed every single time. Were it to pass in all of those states mentioned above, then the compact would have another 114 EV, or 238 total. Once the compact hits 270 EV in July of a presidential election year, then it would automatically go into effect and no state is allowed to jump out of the compact until after January 20 of the following year. If you go see the chart of it's history, you will see that the compact failed in a number of states in former years, only to be ratified later on.

b.) Accept whatever each state does, and if we end up with the mother of all pig-fucks, where the winner in the NPV wins by, say, +10,000,000 votes but loses in the EC, which would only lead to more acrimony and gridlock, so be it.

c.) Or we could move to a system where every state allots its electors per congressional district. Sounds very appealing to Republicans who have relied on very sparsely populated CDs to get them through on more than one occasion, but were we to increase the size of the House of Representatives to 1,000, with each CD being drawn up per computer, irrespective of race or culture, and calculate congressional districts based solely on population and geography, as it should be, then I doubt that the GOP would be so thrilled by this idea, for a state like Wyoming would still have only at best, 2 CDs - less than 300,000 people per district, if at all, where most CDS would need around 315,000 to be evenly spread, while California would have about 109 CDs. So, beware what you ask for, you just may get it.

I would also like to point out what happened the last time the GOP tried to put its finger on the scales and suppress votes in 2012: the opposite happened. Instead of sucessfully suppressing the black vote, Blacks went from 12% to 15% of the electorate. Hispanics, asians, american indians - all jumped in terms of percentage of the electorate on Election Day.

So, "recalibrating" Virginia to the advantage of the Republicans, for instance, could very well lead to a Democratic vote in 2016 that would just go through the ceiling in that state, now that the state has proven itself to be a true battleground state. It could also lead to a similar power grab by Democrats the moment they capture the Texas legislature - and this will indeed happen one day in the future, and then they would do it with no compunction.

Finally, putting aside the feeling of a need for fair play and general decency, we see that there are very pragmatic reasons why the GOP should not do what it is considering. And indeed, voices within the GOP itself are speaking against this. The Virginia state legislature is deadlocked 20 R) - 20 (D) and one Republican state legislator is already speaking strongly against splitting electors. Wait and see what happens.

I am in favor of retaining but modifying the EC, by first increasing the House of Representatives to 1,000 (this is a Republican idea, btw) and the the Senate to 150, with the smallest states still having 2 Senators, the middle-sized states having 3 Senators and the largest states having 4. In addition, I am in favor of granting all living former Presidents and Vice-Presidents the active title of "National Senator" - with full voting powers, and the electors that would represent those national Senators would automatically vote for the winner in the national popular vote. Additionally, per law, the Electoral College would then comprise exactly 1,200 electors:

1,000 for the Representatives.
150 for the elected Senators
X for the number of National Senators, based on how many living former Presidents and Vice-Presidents there are and would be willing to do the job.
X additional electors for 200 minus the 150 elected Senators - the X number of national Senators. this number would vary from cycle to cycle and those electors would automatically be cast for the winner in the national popular vote. This means that the winner in the NPV would automatically get a block of 50 EV out of 1200 (4.2% of the EC using these numbers).

So, with a House of 1,000 and a Senate of 150, let's say that 4 former Presidents are still living, 5 former presidents are still living, and 8 of those 9 are willing to work for free as National Senators. That brings us to 1,158. There would then be 42 extra-electors, who, alongside the National Senators, would automatically cast their vote for the winner of the NPV, regardless of personal ideolody.

So, the magic number to be elected would be 601.

And the electors would be ELECTRONIC electors. Why? There could never again be faithless electors or votes cast by pure mistake. See: 2004, one presidential elector cast his vote erroneously for John Edwards.

Feel free to ask why I think we need and could use national senators. I think there is a strong argument to be made for having them serve in this capacity AFTER leaving office.

Notice that in this way, the smallest of states would still be ever so slightly overrepresented, but not as extreme as in the case of 538 electors.

The number (1,200) would not change were newer states to be added to the Union. We would stay at 1,200 until the Union numbers over 500,000,000.

Think about it.

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