Traverse City Record-Eagle


February 16, 2013

Another View: Better remedies than GOP election plan

Some good may yet come from efforts of Republican-dominated legislatures to change how their states' vote for president.

They appear to be prompting serious discussion of the larger voting process, from drawing districts to casting votes.

The president and vice president are elected by the Electoral College, with the numbers based on each state's Congressional delegation, counting both its two senators and all of its representatives. All but two of the 50 states award all their votes in the Electoral College to the winner of the popular vote in the state. The other two, Maine and Nebraska, award votes based on outcomes of its congressional races.

Republicans in several legislatures, Michigan included, are proposing that votes be cast similarly, based on outcomes in congressional races.

It's a bad idea, born out of desperation amid the recognition that hyper-conservative views, perhaps the Republican Party along with them, are declining in importance.

It's bad in part because congressional districts are drawn following each decennial census by the party in power, invariably in such a way as to favor the party in power.

As a result, moves toward winner-take-all outcomes would provide a long-term advantage to Republicans.

There are fairer ways to elect our representatives, starting with apportionment and how district lines are drawn. It isn't difficult to meet the basic district-drawing requirements: a nearly equal number of voters in each district while respecting municipal boundaries.

That sounds fair, but often isn't. Eliminating gerrymandering, the serpentine districts that confer advantage to the party in power, would be a start. So would any proportional representation scheme that more closely reflects the popular vote. Winner-take-all in most presidential elections has often amplified the popular vote, making voting in the Electoral College more lop-sided. But in 2000, George W. Bush was elected despite a narrow loss in the popular vote.

Awarding Electoral College votes in each state based on proportion of the popular vote in the state rather than on each party's wins and losses in congressional races, would be fairer.

Another proposal, if approved by state legislatures whose states make up more than half of the electoral votes, would award all electoral votes to the winner of the popular vote.

Better remedies exist. If adopted in all states, they would clearly be fairer than the proposals being floated by Republicans.

The Oakland Press, Pontiac

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