Traverse City Record-Eagle

March 31, 2014

GOP proposal to split electoral votes still alive

Legislation creators say Mitt Romney would have won more votes
Traverse City Record-Eagle

---- — LANSING (AP) — President Barack Obama easily secured all 16 of Michigan’s electoral votes on his path to re-election in a state where Republicans haven’t won a presidential race in a quarter-century but now control state government.

That’s causing some within the GOP to propose scrapping the winner-take-all system and instead divide electoral votes proportionally, which would guarantee Republican presidential candidates come away with something.

For majority Republicans, the time to act could come during the Legislature’s “lame-duck” session after the November election.

State Rep. Pete Lund told The Associated Press he’s revising his 2011 bill, which would have apportioned electoral votes to the presidential candidate who wins each of 14 congressional districts, with two additional votes going to the winner of the statewide popular vote. The Republican from Macomb County’s Shelby Township plans to introduce new legislation in the next month or two and said he’s working to address criticism that Mitt Romney would have come away with more electoral votes in Michigan despite Obama winning the popular vote by almost 450,000 votes, or 9.5 percentage points, in 2012.

“What I’m working on would be better than the congressional plan in many ways,” said Lund, declining to elaborate.

He could end up proposing to split votes proportionally by popular vote. His earlier plan came under fire in part because Obama would have received seven electoral votes to Romney’s nine.

That’s because Republicans have a 9-5 edge in U.S. House seats because Democratic voters are more geographically clustered and GOP legislators and governors drew gerrymandered lines following the Census in 2010 and 2000.

Democrats say even if the legislation is tweaked, it would still be nothing more than election-rigging in a reliably blue presidential state.

“It is absurd and laughable,” said Rep. Brandon Dillon, D-Grand Rapids. “It is no doubt that this is a coordinated attempt nationally to target states that vote Democratic but because of the 2010 election have an opportunity with Republican legislatures to jam through legislation changing what has been the electoral process for 200 years.”

Maine and Nebraska are the only states to not have a winner-take-all system, splitting electoral votes based on congressional district.

“The important thing to understand is that winner-take-all does not work for Michigan,” Lund said.

Presidential elections are decided by a small number of battleground states, he said, and “right now Michigan is not one of those states.” If electoral votes are truly up for grabs, candidates will pay attention and start considering issues relevant in the state, Lund said.

One risk, though, is candidates could see little to no gain by competing for just a few up-for-grabs electoral votes in Michigan knowing there would be bigger winner-take-all prizes elsewhere.

Republican Gov. Rick Snyder has questioned the timing of any change in apportioning electoral votes, saying it makes more sense to wait until closer to the 2020 Census. Yet his refusal to dismiss the proposal out of hand has Democrats worried.

“Let’s debate it now when we’re not talking about specific (2016) candidates,” Lund said.