If You Can't Win the Presidency, Put the Fix In

Vice President Joe Biden, center, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nev., lower left, lead a procession from the Senat
Vice President Joe Biden, center, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nev., lower left, lead a procession from the Senate into the House chamber for a Joint Session of Congress as the U.S. Electoral College met to affirm President Barack Obama's re-election, Friday, Jan. 4, 2013, on Capitol Hill in Washington. On the left side of the aisle from bottom to top are: Reid, D-Nev., Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., and Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis. On the right side of the aisle, from bottom to top are: Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, and Sen. Tim Scott, R-SC. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

After Republicans took a drubbing in the 2012 elections, failing to win the presidency, losing seats in the Senate, and only hanging on to the House because of extreme gerrymandering, we heard a lot about the party's renewed "soul searching." This journey of self-exploration, we hoped, would produce a truce in the War on Women, a more moderate approach on taxes, and a dialing back of the assault on Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, all ways of picking up the pieces of a coalition shattered by the Tea Party.

So far, of course, that is not what has happened. Instead of trying to moderate their positions to appeal to more voters, the GOP is now trying to win elections through sheer force, rigging the system so that they can be elected without actually earning a majority of the vote. Apparently reconciling themselves to the fact that the content of their fringe ideas will not earn them a sustainable majority, they are trying to rig the electoral college to virtually ensure that the winner of the nation's popular vote will not win the election.

Here's how it's working right now in Virginia. Republicans have reported out of a Senate subcommittee a bill that would change the way the state apportions its electoral votes. Instead of awarding all of Virginia's electoral votes to the winner of the statewide popular vote, the measure would award one electoral vote to the winner of each congressional district. It would then pile on the imbalance by awarding the remaining two statewide electoral votes to the winner of the most congressional districts. Such a plan inevitably skews election results to the candidate least likely to win the popular vote because voters in large urban areas are often clustered together into a limited number of districts, thus diluting their votes. In fact, under the Virginia scheme, even though President Obama won the state's popular vote by four percentage points, he would have received only 4 of the state's 13 electoral votes.

Virginia's current governor, Bob McDonnell, is, to his credit, opposing the plan. But it's not just Virginia. Such plans are being considered in a number of other blue-leaning, battleground states including Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan, and possibly even Florida and Ohio. Last year Pennsylvania lawmakers considered moving forward with a similar proposal, before they realized it could hurt their own chances in certain congressional races. But now, two months after President Obama handily won Pennsylvania's 20 electoral votes, the state GOP is once again considering the proposal. Republican leaders in Ohio and Wisconsin flirted with similar plans last year, even before they were handed massive defeats in November. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder have both said they're open to the idea. And earlier this month, Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus gave the plan his seal of approval, saying, "I think it's something that a lot of states that have been consistently blue that are fully controlled red ought to be looking at."

If the plan had been effect in every state in the union last year, Mitt Romney would have won the presidency by 11 electoral votes despite losing the popular vote by five million. Focusing on only the blue-leaning states, of course, skews the results even further. If the plan had been in place last year in only the states that are currently seriously considering it - Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Florida, Wisconsin - Mitt Romney would have walked away with a healthy 22-vote margin in the Electoral College.

Unable to win the last two presidential elections, even with the help of unlimited corporate spending and undemocratic voting restrictions, Republicans are now trying to change the rules of the game again. They clearly won't let a sense of shame stop them from rigging the next presidential election. The only thing that will stop them is widespread public outrage. Last year, their blatant efforts to change voting laws to keep students, minorities and low-income people from voting backfired in a major way, as those who saw their right to vote threatened took extra care to exercise it. Under this new scheme, it won't matter how many Americans turn out to vote. The winner will be chosen before the first vote is cast. These Republican politicians may not take our democracy seriously, but most American voters do. The GOP will have to learn that if they can't win elections the honest way, they aren't going to win at all.