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LUKE PIPER: Do electoral reform in right way

on March 01, 2013 10:30 AM

There is a curious initiative taking form in several GOP-controlled state legislatures, where plans are surfacing to alter how a state awards its electoral votes during a presidential election.

Constitutionally, there is no challenge here; states have the right to award electoral votes however they wish.

But the circumstances and implications force me to question the motivations behind such legislation.

The general pattern is this: In several GOP-controlled states that have typically voted Democrat in recent presidential elections, the state legislatures are moving to do away with the “winner takes all” electoral vote system for those states.

Presuming that these states would continue to vote Democrat, such plans would lead to a shift in electoral votes toward the next Republican presidential nominee.

Pennsylvania is one such state. Our state Legislature is aiming to apportion electoral votes proportionally, based on the statewide popular vote. Besides the fact that it diminishes our influence as a swing state, I don’t find such a system entirely disagreeable.

Naturally, I’m inclined to ponder whether our state Legislature would be showing similar zeal if they had good reason to think that Pennsylvania would vote Republican in 2016, but at least this plan reasonably reflects the will of the electorate.

By contrast, however, a much more infuriating initiative is manifest in states such as Michigan. Here, the GOP-controlled state Legislature is aiming to apportion electoral votes by congressional district. Such a system would exploit the heavily gerrymandered districts in the state.

For example, if this plan had been active in 2012, Romney would have received approximately 10 of Michigan’s 16 electoral votes, despite Obama winning the state by just under 450,000 votes — a margin of nearly 10 percent.

It seems to me that if Michigan Republicans were simply interested in “fairness,” they would advocate something similar to the “proportion” plan proposed in Pennsylvania. Instead, they submit a nonsensical plan that trivializes the state’s popular vote. That is not democracy, and any legislator who would dare advocate a plan that so egregiously distorts the will of the electorate does not deserve to be representing us in government.

Luke Piper

Indiana

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