Wednesday, January 30, 2013

5 Reasons To Be Optimistic The Republican Election-Rigging Plan Is Dead (And 3 Reasons It’s Not)

Two weeks ago, Republican National Committee Chair Reince Priebus called upon “states that have been consistently blue that are fully controlled red” to consider a Republican plan to rig future presidential races. Under the GOP plan, these blue states would stop awarding electoral votes to the winner of the state as a whole, and instead would award them one-by-one to the winner of each congressional district. Because these districts are highly gerrymandered to favor Republicans, the election-rigging plan ensures that Republicans will win the overwhelming majority of the electoral votes in these blue states regardless of how the people of those states cast their votes.

Six states potentially fit Priebus’ description of a blue state that is currently controlled by Republicans — Florida, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin. To date, senior Republicans in four of these states have either voted down the plan or indicated that it will not be taken up in the first place, and the governor of a fifth state has expressed concerns about the plan:
Florida: Florida is the least blue of the six states where the GOP plan could be enacted, so it is unsurprising that top Florida Republicans appear cold to the plan. Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford (R) compared the plan to rigging a football game, and state Senate President Don Gaetz (R) supports abolishing the Electoral College altogether.
Virginia: Yesterday, a Virginia state senate committee voted to kill the election-rigging plan by an overwhelming 11-4 vote. Four Republicans opposed rigging the Electoral College.
Ohio: Many of the most senior Republicans in Ohio, including Gov. John Kasich, state Senate President Keith Faber and House Speaker William G. Batchelder all said this week that they will not pursue the election-rigging plan, and Batchelder added that he “is not supportive of such a move.”
Michigan: In an interview with Bloomberg yesterday, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R) said that he is “very skeptical” of the election-rigging plan and would oppose taking it up at least until right before the next redistricting.
Wisconsin: The election-rigging plan is decidedly not dead in Wisconsin, but Gov. Scott Walker (R) said earlier this week that he has “real concern” that it could diminish the relevance of Wisconsin in presidential races.

So the Republican Plan is officially dead in one state and lacks the support of essential lawmakers in three states. Of the two states where it is decidedly still alive — Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — the top Republican in one of those states says he has concerns about the plan. Nevertheless, supporters of democracy should not break out the champagne yet because there are three reasons to be frightened that the plan could reemerge.

The first is that the plan is still alive and well in Pennsylvania, which has voted for the Democratic presidential candidate in every single election for more than two decades. Both Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett (R) and state Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi (R) support rigging the Electoral College.

The second is that a slightly modified verson of the plan could still reemerge in the states where it appears dead. Indeed, Pileggi already proposed modifying the plan in Pennsylvania to allocate electoral votes proportionally according to the total popular vote in the state, rather than by congressional district. This version of the election-rigging plan would award less electoral votes to Republicans, because it does not take advantage of gerrymandering, but it would still put a rule in place only in blue states, while leaving red states like Texas free to give all their electoral votes to the Republican candidate.

The third reason to be concerned is that the mere fact that a Republican elected official says they are not interested in pursuing a partisan power grab today does not mean that they will not back it tomorrow. Gov. Snyder swore up and down that he was not interested in pursuing a so-called “right to work” law in Michigan, only to sign this anti-labor law into effect late last year. So there is always a danger that Republicans could rapidly flip-flop on election-rigging if it looks likely a Democrat will win the White House again in 2016.

So the GOP election-rigging plan could, to borrow from Justice Scalia, still emerge “like some ghoul in a late-night horror movie that repeatedly sits up in its grave and shuffles abroad, after being repeatedly killed and buried.” For the moment, however, this ghoul appears far less likely to devour American democracy than it did two weeks ago.

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