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The Party Line is dedicated to examining regional issues and policies through the figures who give shape to them. These are critical, complex, and even downright confusing times we live in. There’s a lot to navigate nationally and in the Carolinas; whether it’s elections, debates on gay marriage, public school closings, or tax incentives for economic development. The Party Line’s goal is to offer a provocative, intelligent look at the issues and players behind the action; a view that ultimately offers the necessary insight for Carolina voters to hold public servants more accountable.

Sore Losers? GOP Proposals Would Change Rules Of Election Game

Michael Bitzer
Michael Bitzer

The theme of the recent Republican National Committee’s winter meeting in Charlotte was “Renew, Grow and Win.” But it was more about the party of older, white males trying to learn 2012’s electoral lessons in order to face a changing electorate.

While the national GOP sought ways to revitalize the party, other Republicans were plotting ways of “winning” without really renewing or growing. Instead, they want to change the rules of the game.

Forty-eight states award their electoral prizes by the “first-past-the-post” method, meaning the first place winner gets all of the state’s electoral votes. 

However, two states—Maine and Nebraska—award their electoral votes by whoever wins each congressional district. Two remaining votes are awarded to the statewide winner. 

There’s a push in four states that Obama won in 2012 to adopt a similar system – Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Virginia. In these states, Republicans control their state governments and their state congressional delegations.

In the 2012 presidential election, Obama scored 322 electoral votes to Romney’s 206. 

2012 Electoral Outcome.jpeg

Based on an analysis by the Huffington Post, if all the states adopted the congressional district allocation system, the 2012 presidential election would have been a very different result: Romney would have won by 3 electoral votes.

By reallocating their electoral votes into the congressional districts, Romney would have gained 35 electoral votes out of Wisconsin, Virginia, Michigan, and Pennsylvania.

Now, as I describe to my students, politics is a game about power, and whoever has the power can write, or even rewrite, the rules of the game to suit their purpose.

But this potential rewriting of the Electoral College process appears more like “we’ll figure out how to win, no matter the rules.” 

Granted, Obama would have picked up electoral votes that he didn’t get in some states, North Carolina being an example; he carried the 1st, 4th and 12th districts, simply because the GOP had redrawn the districts to heavily favor Democratic presidential voting patterns, while the other 10 districts went for Romney by overwhelming margins.

At the RNC’s winter meeting, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal bluntly stated that the GOP needs to “stop being the stupid party.” When it comes to changing the rules of the game because you’re a sore loser, perhaps some state GOP parties should heed Jindal’s advice.