As Kevin Drum notes, Republicans are especially adept at reducing the structural power of their political opponents after taking office, which is a major way the GOP consolidates influence and authority in American politics.
In the latest issue of Rolling Stone, I write about how the GOP has launched a “war on voting,” passing laws in a dozen states since the 2010 election designed to impede traditionally Democratic voters at every step of the electoral process, which could prevent millions of students, minorities, legal immigrants, ex-convicts and the elderly from casting ballots in 2012.
But Republicans aren’t stopping there. Nick Baumann has a startling and related piece in Mother Jones today about how Republicans in the crucial swing state of Pennsylvania are further trying to rig the 2012 election to their advantage, this time by tampering with the Electoral College. According to Baumann, Pennsylvania’s GOP legislature and governor want the state’s twenty-one electoral votes—which Obama won in 2008 and Democrats have carried since 1992—to be apportioned by Congressional district instead of the current winner-take-all system on the books in forty-eight states (the exceptions are Nebraska and Maine). It just so happens that Republicans control the redistricting process in Pennsylvania, which will likely result in “12 safe GOP seats compared to just six safe Democratic seats,” Baumann writes. That means Obama could theoretically win the state’s popular vote in 2012, but still lose overall in terms of electoral delegates.
If the GOP presidential nominee carries the GOP-leaning districts but Obama carries the state, the GOP nominee would get 12 electoral votes out of Pennsylvania, but Obama would only get eight—six for winning the blue districts, and two (representing the state’s two senators) for winning the state.
As I mentioned, GOP leaders in both legislative chambers, along with Republican Governor Tom Corbett, support this drastic rule change, which would reduce Pennsylvania’s prestige as a coveted swing state but give the GOP a huge advantage in Electoral College math. Republican State Senator Dominic Pileggi has already sent a letter to his colleagues asking them to co-sponsor the legislation, which could be introduced as soon as next month.
Other states controlled by Republicans that traditionally vote Democratic in presidential elections, like Michigan, could follow suit. As Carolyn Fiddler, spokeswoman for the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, puts it: “State legislatures could gerrymander the Electoral College.”
Think of it as a continuation of the GOP’s war on voting. The most basic of democratic rights should not be a left vs. right issue but one that both parties work to uphold. Unfortunately, instead of improving our democracy, Republicans are working harder every day to undermine it.