Republicans Move to Gerrymander Presidential Elections

During the recent “fiscal cliff” negotiations with Obama, John Boehner never missed a chance to remind people that although Obama won the election for President, Americans also voted for a Republican majority in the Congress.

That may be technically true, but it’s misleading. Actually, in the 2012 election, Democrats received more than a million more votes than Republicans in the congressional elections.

The reason the Republicans have a majority in Congress is gerrymandering. Whoever wins the state legislatures during years ending with 0, e.g. 2010, gets to draw the Congressional districts, and the Republicans redrew the maps very aggressively in the states they control.

As a result, states with more Dems than Reps still sent more Reps than Dems to Congress. For example, Pennsylvania has 18 congressional districts, and Dems outvoted Reps by 2,710,827 to 2,642,952. OK, you say, that’s not a huge margin, so it’s no big deal if the Reps got 9 of the 18 seats, instead of only 8.

I agree, but that’s not what happened. Thanks to gerrymandering, the Reps got 13 of the 18 seats, and the Dems got only 5. That’s right, more Pennsylvanians voted for Dems, but more than twice as many Reps as Dems are representing Pennsylvania in Congress, because of gerrymandering.

And now the Republicans are moving to do the same thing for Presidential elections. Most states award all their electoral votes to the candidate who gets the most votes overall. Republicans are moving to apportion electoral votes by district.

In the 2012 election, Obama won the popular vote by 5 million votes. If electoral votes were awarded by district, instead of winner-take-all, he would have been beaten easily by Romney in the Electoral College.

Rachel Maddow reported tonight that several state legislatures are already moving to implement this. The Reps can’t win straight up, and they can’t even win with voter suppression techniques that discriminate against minorities and students, so now they are threatening to put a permanent lock on elections through gerrymandering.

The thrust of the argument (more here) is if blue states and swing states that Obama won in 2012 switched to proportional representation then the GOP would have an advantage in 2016 by gaining a share of all those electoral votes that would have gone to the other side, especially if red states don’t also switch to proportional representation in the interim.

If ALL states had switched to proportional representation this last election, Obama would still have crushed Romney. It’s only an advantage to the red states if the blue (and swing) states disarm first.

Now are you all ready to seriously discuss proportional representation?!

Not until it can be done uniformly and apolitically.

Proportional representation is a separate issue, and has little to do with gerrymandering. Under proportional representation, PA would have at least 9 Dems in Congress, instead of 5.

hmmmm…under proportional representation you get the number of seats in direct proportion to the amount of people that voted for your party.

There are many different ways of doing it, but is a whole hell of a lot more “uniform” and “apolitical” than what you have now (not sure exactly what you mean, so if taken to it mean fair and unbiased)

This issue should lead the national news every night. The Republican Party doesn’t care how that win, only that they win. If they can succeed in making some of the larger blue states split their electoral votes, they could nominate someone like Romney and still win. That should scare the piss out of anybody.

Well, let’s see what the Constitution says, shall we?

Maine and Nebraska already split their electoral votes.

So… we have a potential move by several state legislatures to do something that the Constitution clearly gives them the power to do, and that two states have already done.

Can you explain what your plan to stop them is?

Believe it or not, there are people who don’t look at every single issue in terms of “Hey, it’s legal, so it’s cool!” Nobody said it wasn’t legal, simply because nobody else gives a flying fuck.

I don’t think the opposition to this is based on legality, but on the obvious immorality of altering the electoral college for those states just to help Republicans.

The best way to stop this, IMO, is to publicize it, and try and harness public opinion against those who are transparently trying to (legally) rig elections.

What’s your opinion on this? Are you just ok with it?

Win the popular vote by 5 million votes, but lose the election in the EC. The voters will be burning tires in the street, and Republican Congressmen will be afraid to leave their houses. Republicans should be careful what they wish for.

Explain to people the negative consequences. Since you have moved on to the question of resolving the issue clearly you agree that it is a problem, right?

From my perspective as a poster here, things are actually moving in the right direction. I’ve been warning how stupid assigning electoral votes by congressional district would be for years. It’s frequently offered as a compromise proposal. Before it tended to be well received by those few who bothered to comment on it. Now I expect it will be controversial and others will jump in to point out the downsides before I get the chance.

Missed the edit window. I was offering this as a plan to stop the gerrymandering and not a demand that Bricker do any explaining.

If they really want to so blatantly ignore the will of the electorate, I don’t see why these legislatures should not simply eliminate popular voting for Presidential elections in the state and pass a law stating that the legislature will assign electoral votes. (Note that I don’t support this idea either ideologically or philosophically.) If there’s no vote held, you don’t end up in the situation where you give the majority of electoral votes to the minority candidate, you simply give all the votes along partisan lines. Then you can claim that there was really a groundswell of public opinion in favor of the winner and without the actual vote tally no one can prove you wrong. I don’t see how it’s any more of a naked power grab than the ideas currently being proposed.

But, nevertheless, it’s true, so calls of “Republicans have no mandate in the House to block what the Democrats want” will fall on deaf ears.

You also make it sound like Democrats have never done it, yet one look at California’s districts in the 1980s - especially now-Senator Boxer’s (to be fair, it wasn’t her district when it was drawn), that included land areas that were separated by something like 10 miles of open water.

Not until somebody explains how “true” PR works in a single-representative-per-district system. When somebody finally admits that all members of Congress work for national, or maybe state, level interests, but no citizen has a real right to access “their” representative, then we can discuss PR - but even then, it doesn’t apply to states too small to have more than one House member. (Unless you’re confusing PR with, for example, Single Transferable Vote?)

Because that worked so well for the Democrats in 2000. Oh, wait…

A considerable number of people want to take it one step further, and sidestep the electoral college by having enough states change its rules to “all of our electoral votes go to whoever wins the nationwide popular vote” to guarantee that the popular vote winner gets elected.

It wouldn’t be so bad if the districts weren’t drawn with such malicious intent. Pennsylvania is by far the worst example, where the Republicans were outvoted in the Congressional races but wound up with the lion’s share of the delegation.

Perhaps the PA Dems need to come up with chicanery of their own- maybe build a big campground in a red district and get a bunch of Philly residents to claim it as their primary residence and outvote the locals.

It would be fine if the districts were impartial. The entire problem is the gerrymandered districts, not the apportionment of electoral votes.

If a state is apportioned X congressional reps, each voter chooses 1 rep from the slate of all candidates in the election. The top X vote-recipients are elected representatives for the state.

For the PA example, I’d imagine each of the major parties would field 18 candidates, plus you figure the 3rd parties would each put one or two on the ballot. So there would be perhaps 40-45 candidates, and PA voters would each pick one in the voting booth.

The system has the advantage of (1) eliminating gerrymandering and (2) giving 3rd parties a realistic chance of getting some representation in Congress, rather than relegating them to the status of perpetual protest vote. It does have the disadvantage of turning what were originally considered “local” contests into statewide elections, but as you point out all members of Congress work for national/state interests anyway (very few even visit their district until election time), so this method just reflects that reality.

As for states with X=1, Congress passed a law in 1929 to arbitraily set the limit at 435 House reps. I for one think this limit should be increased.

Of course proportional representation has to do with gerrymandering, in that it renders gerrymandering moot/impossible. Gerrymandering only happens in connection with a representation-by-districts system.