Last weekend the Michigan Republican Party voted, by a 1,370-132 margin, in support of a plan to change the way Michigan’s electoral votes are doled out. Rather than the winner-takes-all system that Michigan has always known, rather than a proportional system that gives each candidate the votes they earned, and no more, as The Detroit News has proposed, Republicans want to select one elector from each of the state’s 14 gerrymandered congressional districts. The two at-large votes would go to the statewide winner.
On its face, what the Republican faithful supported was electoral reform. In reality, they endorsed a plot to steal the 2016 Presidential Election rather than win it.
State Rep. and Majority Whip Pete Lund, R — Shelby Twp., tried to pass a bill to that effect back in 2011, House Bill 5184. He couldn’t get much traction because his party brethren expected that Mitt Romney would win Michigan outright, in which case this reform would’ve actually cost him electoral votes — he would’ve earned 11 out of 16, or 68 percent of the votes, rather than win all 16.
But despite sunny predictions from Republican pollsters and conservative journalists, Romney didn’t win. Didn’t come close, really. Despite hailing from Michigan, despite attesting that our trees were just the right height, Romney only earned 44 percent of the 4,730,961 million votes cast in Michigan.
Under Pete Lund’s plan, the plan Michigan Republicans just endorsed, that performance would’ve still sent Romney home with 56 percent of Michigan’s electoral votes. The nine congressional districts carved out for Republicans would’ve cast their votes for Romney. The five Democratic electors would’ve gone for Obama, and Obama would’ve won the statewide tally. 56 percent of the electoral votes for only winning 44 percent of the vote.
Talk about moving the goalposts. That’s stealing, folks. The discussion we have from this point on would be more honest if we called this theft by its real name.
The people who back such ideas are counting on you forget that this is in the pipeline. State Rep. Pete Lund, the brains behind the operation (such as it is), refused an opportunity to publish an op-ed explaining why Michigan should pass such a law. Michigan Republicans have shown, by their support of Lund’s reform, that they’re no longer confident that they can win elections. But when did they stop trying to win the debate?
That invitation still stands, any time Lund would like to explain why a guy who won 44 percent of the vote should have emerged the winner in 2012.
The big question
Just how realistic is electoral college reform?
If Republicans follow the will of the members of the state party, they have the votes. If they escape 2014 with a majority in both houses and a governor who wears the red tie, electoral college reform could become the right-to-work of the 2014 lame duck period. (Which is why the non-existent Democratic field for governor should be a concern to liberals, and has to be new state party chair Lon Johnson’s highest priority.)
Ari Adler, who handles communications for House Speaker Jase Bolger, said that the speaker “does support examining the idea thoroughly to see if it’s something that would work well for Michigan voters.” Bolger has told other media that some people in his part of the state feel disenfranchised in presidential elections.
Adler said that Bolger asked Lund to hold off on the reform last go-round because of the pending presidential election, but “if we are going to make a change, the opportunity to do so is now, as there are no known candidates and no presidential election in the near future…whether the legislation proceeds beyond the committee process, however, has not yet been determined.”
Amber McCann, a staffer in Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville’s office, said that the senator hadn’t changed his mind on electoral college reform, which he views with skepticism.
As Richardville told a local reporter on Jan. 30, “I don’t know that the (Electoral College) system is broken. So I don’t know that we need to fix it.”
But McCann did also say that Richardville is “open to further discussion” on the issue. Not quite the slam dunk ‘no’ one would’ve assumed from reading late-January media reports.
Gov. Rick Snyder differs with Bolger on the timing issue. All media reports have Snyder taking the “not the appropriate time” position, which may be to 2013-14 what “not on my agenda” was in 2011-12: A nice thought but ultimately useless and contradicted by later actions.
Will Republicans try to steal the 2016 Presidential Election? That answer may depend on how often and how aggressively you, the voter, the taxpayer, contact Lund, Bolger, Richardville and Snyder and tell them to keep this “reform” off the agenda for good.