GOP Operatives Eye Reversal of Democrats' Electoral College Edge

The current method of calculating electoral college votes in most states gives Democrats an edge in presidential races. Republicans operatives are working to undo that edge, not by supporting a popular vote, though, as most Americans would prefer, but by supporting changes that would give Republicans an edge.

In all but two states, Maine and Nebraska, the candidate who wins the majority of votes in the state receives all the electors for that state. In Maine and Nebraska, electors are assigned by congressional district. A candidate gets one elector for each congressional district they win and two more electors if they win the popular vote in the state.

Republican operatives are working to cherry pick a few select states to change the system to one like Maine and Nebraska in order to pick up a few more electors in the next presidential election.

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The states they are looking at are Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Obama won all three of those states in 2008 and 2012. Combined, those states netted 46 electors for President Barack Obama. If those states had assigned electors by congressional district, though, at least 26 electors would have likely gone to Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney instead of Obama, according to calculations by Reid Wilson for National Journal. It would not have been enough for Romney to win, but would at least put future Republican candidates in a better position to win in future elections.

One aspect that all three of those states have in common is their state governments are controlled by Republicans, making the change possible. It also means that the 2010 redistricting in those states was controlled by the Republicans, thus giving them an advantage in drawing congressional district lines favorable to their party.

The Electoral College currently favors Democrats because two of the largest states, California and New York, are solidly in their favor. Combined, these two states give Democratic candidates 84 of the 270 electors needed to win the presidency. The only large solid Republican state is Texas, with 38 electors. Obama had 247 solidly Democratic electoral college votes this year, just 23 shy of what he needed to win.

The current plan pursued by some Republicans is not aimed at fixing perceived flaws in the system, though. Rather, it is aimed at simply helping Republicans win. (Notice they are not proposing the same system for states like Texas, which would help Democrats gain a few more electors.)

Opinion polls have consistently shown that Americans would prefer a popular vote system to the electoral college (see Christian Post reporting on that here and here.)

While some Republicans are supporting a plan to have the presidential election decided by popular vote, the Republican Party platform explicitly denounces that idea.

"We recognize that an unconstitutional effort to impose 'national popular vote' would be a mortal threat to our federal system and a guarantee of corruption as every ballot box in every state would become a chance to steal the presidency," the platform states.

The Democratic Party platform does not take a position on the Electoral College.

In an October 2011, interview with The Christian Post, George C. Edwards, distinguished professor of political science at Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas, argued that the Electoral College should be abolished in favor of a popular vote because "it's a violation of the most fundamental principles of democracy, meaning equality in voting. Under the Electoral College, every citizen vote does not count the same."

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