Splitting electoral votes is bad policy

By Matt Watson

The GOP is on a crusade to unseat President Barack Obama in 2012. Since taking control in many states during the 2010 midterm elections, Republicans have made it harder for minority, poor and young voters to cast their ballots. Early voting has been slashed in Ohio and Florida, and other states have begun requiring voter ID cards. The most recent step in their fight is in Pennsylvania, where a proposal to change the way the state allocates its electoral votes is under way.

Dominic Pileggi, Pennsylvania Senate majority leader, has proposed a plan that would apportion 18 of the state’s 20 electoral votes according to who wins in each congressional district. The two remaining votes, representing the state’s two senators, would go to whoever won the popular vote. Because of slow population growth in the last decade, Pennsylvania lost one congressional district in the 2010 census. The GOP controls the redistricting process, and many expect there to be 12 safe Republican seats to only six safe Democratic seats.

The Electoral College is far from perfect—the 2000 elections proved that whoever wins the most votes doesn’t necessarily become president. This still doesn’t excuse the GOP’s plan. If something is to be done about the Electoral College, it shouldn’t be implemented piecemeal by the states, especially large swing states like Pennsylvania. If this procedure had been in place in 2008, Obama would have only won 11 of the state’s 21 electoral votes, even though he carried the state by 10 points.

The Republicans don’t have the people’s best interest in mind—just that of their own kind. Of course, Democrats only oppose this plan because it could potentially lose the presidency for them. Both sides are playing politics, which is exactly the problem.

The reason splitting one of the largest state’s electoral votes is bad policy has nothing to do with the 2012 elections. It sets a bad precedent for the future. If this plan passes and Obama does lose next year, there is nothing stopping other large Midwestern swing states from implementing a similar plan. The GOP has taken control of state governments in Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin, and these governors would be more than eager to help their national party by splitting up traditionally Democratic votes.

Maine and Nebraska currently divide their electoral votes up by congressional districts. However, neither of these states are a battleground, the winner usually does take all and it’s impossible for the winner to get less than half of these small state’s votes.

Unfortunately, there is nothing for Democrats to do but sit back and hope for the best. They have been cut out of the process in Pennsylvania, and their only hope is that some GOP lawmakers have strong confidence that all of the state’s 20 votes will go for the Republican nominee, as some have voiced.

The Pennsylvania Republicans point out that the current winner-takes-all system isn’t fair to the minority in each state that is overlooked, and this is true. It isn’t fair that a small handful of states essentially get to choose the president, while Illinois is brushed off as a reliable blue state and ignored. Ohio and Florida decided the 2000 and 2004 elections, and that’s wrong.

If what the Republicans want is fairness, they would have common ground with Democrats in agreeing that the Electoral College system needs to go. This country has dealt with enough partisanship lately, and it would be refreshing for both sides to agree on this one issue.

While switching to a popular vote system seems far-off, it’s still worth fighting for. In 2004, George W. Bush lost the popular vote by approximately 500,000 votes, and anyone who lived through the eight years of his presidency should agree that a popular vote system would have been a savior.

The best hope there is now would be for the GOP leaders in Pennsylvania to heed the call of the people, who prefer the current winner-take-all system, according to an ABC poll conducted on Sept. 21–26. This plan has stirred debate about the Electoral College though, which is a good thing. Let’s not wait for another disastrous election to realize the system is flawed. America might not survive another Bush.