Assign Wisconsin’s electoral votes by congressional districts

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker needs to put his heart in the right place and take one for the team.

A week ago the MJS wrote about Walker’s reservation regarding the possibility to change Wisconsin law and allow electoral votes to be cast by congressional district instead of in bulk for the state’s majority presidential candidate. Now granted, the MJS can be the source of many an out-of-context quote, but this is the one they provided by Walker:

“One of our advantages is, as a swing state, candidates come here. We get to hear from the candidates,” said Walker in an interview Saturday at a conservative conference in Washington, D.C. “That’s good for voters. If we change that, that would take that away, it would largely make us irrelevant.”

Uhem. One of our disadvantages as a swing state is that candidates show up here panting and promising and leaving local and state taxpayers with the bill for extra security. The University of Virginia told Obama, “No” when he asked to campaign on campus because of costs. So a corner sandwich shop might get a few extra sales, but I don’t see Wisconsin’s needs being met by courting the candidates as a swing state.

That last paragraph was my nice way of saying I’m calling Governor Walker on his claim. His statement should read more like:

“One of my advantages is, as a swing state, candidates come here. I have my picture made with the candidates. That’s good for me. If we change that, that would take that away, it would largely make me irrelevant.”

(I made that up. Just to clarify – the above non-quote is intended to be farce.)

Think about what assigning electoral votes by congressional district would do for America. Think about what would happen if all the Republican governors in swing states encouraged the same change.

Obama for America was a spectacular machine. They put together the turnout to tip Wisconsin blue for both the Presidential race and Wisconsin’s Senate spot. (Although the Republican choice in a candidate may have sort of possibly had something to do with that, but that’s another chapter.) The best way to stop any machine potentially as successful is to change the model. Do not put so much in the kitty. It’s as simple as that.

Lewis K. Uhler and Peter Ferrara wrote a piece for Investor’s Business Daily that said the same thing. Florida, Ohio, Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Michigan could join Wisconsin in choosing to distribute electoral votes by congressional district. It’s completely within a state’s right to assign electors. Had the change been made in those Republican states prior to the 2012 November election, Romney would be President.

Plus, consider the advantages to subverting the swing-state model and moving to congressional district choices. The decision would make a handful of districts swing instead of states. A lot let would be at risk. A LOT LESS MONEY WOULD BE NECESSARY TO FUND A CAMPAIGN. How many of us have complained about the money in politics? If you aren’t blanketing a state in advertising, there’s a lot less that needs to be spent.

In addition, Presidential campaigns would be more intimate, as the House of Representatives in their smaller districts are designed to reflect the population of America within those lines. Presidential candidates would have to campaign like Representatives in order to gain a vote. That’s a lot of handshaking and a lot less celebrity status.

Selfishly I’d call it a win because the urban centers who now elect a candidate based on who will pay for their electric bill would take a back seat to the core of America.

There are no easy answers here. We have to strip generations of attitude to get back to an America our Founding Fathers put to paper. But you know what? This decision by Wisconsin’s elected would be a good start.

This is a state’s-rights issue. It is time for Wisconsin to state what’s right and allow electoral votes to be assigned by congressional district.

Comments

  1. Uh Cindy, this is the system the Founding Fathers put to paper. I’m currently pointing and laughing – this is the type of rant that lands you squarely in the wingnut camp.

  2. Right. We were all supposed to be bickering about whether or not Beyonce lip syncs.

    I’m ok with my original statement on generations and attitude.

    This method to assign electoral votes is allowed. That you don’t like the possible outcome is the only reason you choose the descriptor “wingnut.”

  3. I’m open to this idea, but I don’t think it would reduce political spending one iota. If the swing districts decide the election rather than swing states, the campaigns will just pivot to spending millions per voter in those districts rather than thousands per voter in the swing states.

    We have 2 parties that don’t agree on anything. They have completely opposed visions of America and both are quite passionate about it. Many of these people will always give money to helping the vision of America that they want to see win out, especially since the alternative is so different. As long as that continues to be true, there is absolutely nothing anyone can do to prevent massive amounts of money from having a HUGE impact on our politics.

  4. Bill Kurtz says:

    I could let fly with an angry rant, starting with the observation of a Supreme Court justice (I forget which one) who stated in a one-man, one-vote case that elected officials “represent people, not sheep, trees, or acres.”
    Instead I’ll observe that you wouldn’t be embracing this scheme if the Democrats were still running losers like Michael Dukakis. While Barack Obama was able to motivate those “urban” voters you obviously consider your inferiors, the most Dukakis offered them was a message that they’d like his Supreme Court nominees better than George Bush’s. Yeah, that really motivated people in South Central LA or the West Side of Chicago to stand in a long line to vote for him.
    Speaking of 1988, George Bush carried all the other states mentioned by those authors you quoted. So did Ronald Reagan, twice. So they’re obviously not allergic to Republicans. Maybe Republicans did something to push them away.

  5. Maybe. Or maybe the urban centers are so well padded in each of those states that Republicans will never win there again without this change.

  6. As others have noted, we wouldn’t be discussing this if Mitt Romney didn’t lose.

    As it is, the House map already affords disproportionate representation to those in rural/suburban America. Republicans currently hold a 232-200 advantage in the House even though they received fewer cumulative votes than Democratic candidates. To go any further down this rabbit hole of devaluing urban dwellers simply because they live in higher-density areas borders on preposterous.

    Furthermore, such a proposal then subjects the Presidential election to the general lunacy and gerrymandering that occurs in states where partisan bodies control redistricting. Once again, instead of moving more in the direction of rationality, this proposal just plunges us further down the rabbit hole.

    I won’t suggest our present system is ideal, but if it’s going to be changed, it makes more sense to change it in a direction that treats each vote equally. What’s been suggested moves it in the opposite direction.

    But hey, if you guys want to keep pulling redistricting stunts, like that vote in Virginia where they waited for an African-American member to be absent, then passed a plan and adjourned in honor of Stonewall Jackson, be my guest. To second the Lorax, this is just the kind of talk that Bobby Jindal’s been warning against.

  7. “I won’t suggest our present system is ideal, but if it’s going to be changed, it makes more sense to change it in a direction that treats each vote equally.”

    Why is a system that treats each vote equally ideal? It seems pretty obvious with the advent of the electoral college that our founders intent was to have the states that have strong support for multiple candidates decide the election. A candidate can’t win just because he racks up a bazillion votes in his home state. He must win the most votes in the states where there is a serious debate.

    Cindy’s proposal simply modernizes the Founders logic to today. Now we have many places like Wisconsin where many parts of the state are reflexively right or reflexively left. Why basing an election on which party can turn out more of their drones better than having the election hinge which candidates can make better arguments to win the swing areas, where there are more likely to be a substantial percentage of moderates?

    Bottom line, the Founders’ goal was to see real debate and discussion determine elections…. that’s why they went with an electoral college system. I think you can make a pretty strong case that Cindy’s system does this better than the current system.

    One other point… the 2 states that currently do this by congressional district do still award some electors based on the state winner, so if Obama can turn out a ton of voters in Milwaukee vs. Romney in Waukesha would still be somewhat important. The “turnout the base” aspect is simply de-emphesized and the “can you appeal to the 50-50 districts” that really doesn’t matter at all today is given more importance.

    Finally, I don’t know about Nebraska, but Maine put in this system because of a past election where 3 candidates where all in the 30% range and they thought it was unfair to give all the votes to 1 candidate when he couldn’t even achieve 40%. You do realize that your libertarian friends stand a much better chance of actually winning some electoral votes and becoming more relevant in a by-congressional-district system, right? :)

  8. Two thoughts – this isn’t Cindy’s idea. It’s already allowed by constitution. All that is required is for the states to take up their right and make the change. States change laws all the time. And in many ways, that the opportunity already exists under the U.S. Constitution is proof yet again of the prescience of our Founders.

    Next, it’s more than Romney losing. It’s a recognition of a fundamental shift in American Demographics that would likely never allow another Republican president if a machine as effective as Obama’s stays in place. Yeah. I think it’s that big of a deal.

    The Republican leaning states listed have the ability to make the changes now. They should do it.

  9. If your going to cheat…might as well go for the Gusto!

    Democracy gets old anyway. …. Too much work.

  10. How would following a new law be cheating?

  11. I’ll gladly recognize it’s not Cindy’s idea, per se. She was advocating it, and so goes the attribution.

    When you have a party like the GOP that’s badly off its bearings, that’s lost the popular vote in five of the last six presidential elections, I can appreciate the desire to seek new paths forward.

    One path, which seems to be preferred by many of your more dynamic leaders, is to do what is necessary to reform the GOP into a party with more contemporary appeal. The GOP has lots of talented young leaders pursuing this course: Marco Rubio, Bobby Jindal, Paul Ryan, just to name a few. Jindal’s exactly right when he says the problem is that the GOP is the “stupid party” now. It’s why I no longer identify as a Republican. The level of anti-intellectualism and outright rejection of science in the GOP is appalling.

    On the flip side, you have those who, much like Karl Rove in 2004, think the answer is to either squeeze more blood out of the rock or to change the rules to allow a receding minority to cling to whatever opportunities for power it has. I certainly appreciate the craven, Machiavellian approach of these approaches. Unfortunately, it doesn’t accomplish what is necessary. It is, however, more likely to create a scenario in which the American public – nay, the growing American majority – becomes increasingly frustrated by a system in which GOP candidates can lose the popular vote by 6-8 points and still eke out wins in the electoral college. Rural, GOP-leaning states are already given disproportionately favorable consideration in the electoral college owing to the inclusion of Senate seats in determining the allocation of electors. Apparently that advantage still isn’t enough for some. But again, I get the appeal. It allows you to deny that the problem is with the popularity of your viewpoints.

    You may see that as an easy path to competing for power, but in the end, all it does is breed further distrust in democracy and those who design the system.

    If your football team is lousy defending the run, the answer is to improve your run defense, not to lobby the NFL to ban rushing the football. Thankfully, your party leaders aren’t listening to you, and your party will benefit from it in the long run.

  12. Ok, we’re going to rumble here, Mr. Supervisor. If your team is losing because you have two coaches trying to run in opposite directions, you deserve to lose. But if, by chance, your team is losing because the boundaries were redrawn and someone forgot to mention it, that’s different.

    I hate Karl Rove. I always have. I lost an ugly election based on his tactics. If he dies a tortured man alone in a pile of excrement it will not hurt my feelings. I sent Marco Rubio an ugly Tweet tonight because I think he’s a pompous ass. Unless it’s Condoleezza Rice, I seriously hope I haven’t met the next Republican presidential nominee yet. The field is that shallow.

    But.

    I think something is fundamentally shifting here, and I play to win. Change what can be changed so that the playing field is slanted in my favor.

    Now who else have you ever heard admit that?

  13. Hahaha, I’ll give you credit for candor. And to be clear, I’m not much a fan of Karl Rove or Marco Rubio either.

    I think it’s one thing for you to be saying this on a blog. I think it’s another thing for elected officials to embrace the approach you describe. People hate politicians who maneuver to accumulate power solely for its own sake. And that’s really what we’re talking about. Should GOP politicians talk about tinkering with a system that in most states has been untouched since statehood, people will see right through the shallow talk and take it for what it really is.

    Democrats, coming off the Carter/Mondale/Dukakis trifecta, were very much in a similar position to the GOP now. They were also in a position at the state level to pitch exactly the same changes. Except they didn’t try to change the rules – they just got better and smarter and not coincidentally, more centrist. In 1984 and 1988, the left wing of that party was convinced it was losing because its agenda wasn’t liberal enough. In the end, they needed the Democratic Leadership Council to push them to a more moderate and electable position. Now, with guys like Rubio, Rand Paul, and Ted Cruz trying to establish themselves as legitimate forces within the GOP, it goes a long way to burying the Tea Party. We’re seeing a shift from guys tilting at windmills to trying to change course and advance policy. That’s a positive change for the party.

    The GOP’s problem on the national level is that it’s having a harder and harder time drawing votes, plain and simple. That’s had nothing to do with boundaries, and everything to do with the GOP not having an agenda that’s competitive in high-turnout elections. And in a democracy, if you’re more likely to lose when more people exercise their right to vote, that’s not a promising combination no matter how you try to parse the map to your advantage.

  14. Bill Kurtz says:

    Interesting comment by Cindy that she hopes she hasn’t met the next GOP candidate. Which leads me to two questions and a comment: Have you met Chris Christie? What do you think of him?
    I think he looks like the only Republican candidate who can change the electoral college dynamics of the past 20 years, because he can potentially win several states that haven’t gone Republican since 1988. Pat Buchanan has pointed out there are 18 states (plus DC) that have gone Democratic in each of the last six races, and three small ones (Iowa, NH,NM) went Democratic five out of six.
    With those 21 states, Democrats need only one swing state (Fla., Ohio) or a couple midsize or small states (Nev., NC, Va.) The GOP nominee needs almost a sweep of 29 states.

  15. The electoral college is an antique and has outlived it purpose. It made sense when we were a developing nation and spread so thin over a vast landscape. Today not so much. Also, I have a few suggestions on how to repair our broken electoral system.
    1. Take all outside money out of the process. Publicly funded elections witht the same of amount of cash given to each candidate to run an equal number of ads or mailings.
    2. Popular vote winner is the next president. We don\’t use the electoral college for anything other elections so why not?
    3. Term limits. Two full terms in office is enough for these career polititians. If it\’s good enough for the president then why not the rest of these pols?
    4. Reduce the number of reps from four to two. You really want to fix the budget? Get rid of the fat that is the house of representatives.

  16. of all of the righties on the blogosphere, i enver expected you to be one who not only apporved of the disgusting, unethical way the republicans gerrymandered our state last year.

    Now not only are you glad they did it, you want to double down and gerrymander the presidency.

    Will of the people only matters when it matches with yours??

    bravo to RS! He hit the nail on the head!

  17. Recess Supervisor: “People hate politicians who maneuver to accumulate power solely for its own sake.” I argue exactly the opposite is necessary in this case. Pretty boys like Walker need to take one for the team. I think I mentioned that.

    Love/hate Christie, which is amusing because for the most part that’s what folks would say about me. RS said something about Dems moving centrist. BS. And Christie isn’t centrist either. Christie simply wants want Christie wants, and given it generally works for him, so far, so good.

    (For all the slobbering the right does over Reagan, he was probably our last centrist president. Dude provided universal healthcare in 1986 with the signing of an act that doesn’t let hospitals refuse patients. Conservatives conveniently forget that kind of thing.)

    Tax Hell: just too much too fast. How do you think you can make all that happen?

    Billiam. Yep. What I want more than anything is for the GOP to figure out how to properly communicate given the obvious obstacles. Something so simple no one misses it.

    I used to train teachers on how to use a computer when the machines were knew. My forte was making it all “one click stupid.”

    That’s what the Republican party needs to master. Stupid voting. Sorry, but that’s what we’re up against.

  18. Cindy, the Democrats did move to the center, undoubtedly. You can’t for a moment sit here and pretend that Bill Clinton was from the same wing of that party as Michael Dukakis and Walter Mondale and Ted Kennedy. If you do, I fear you’re a bit guilty of lumping all Democrats into one group. Clinton was no further to the left than Reagan was to the right.

    Obama’s free to move to the left now for two reasons. One, America is moving to the left, particularly on social issues, and the GOP is in denial about it. Two, because the GOP keeps putting batshit crazy Tea Party candidates in front of America and it wigs us the hell out. Whether liberal reliably beats conservative, I don’t know. It does reliably beat crazy, which is precisely what the GOP serves up a lot of these days.

    Also, it’s lazy as hell when you resort to such elementary arguments as “we’re losing because we haven’t mastered the stupid vote.” That’s what I expect from Owen Robinson’s commenters. I’m not going to disagree with you on the voters are stupid part. But the GOP wins its fair share of downballot elections with the same dullards, the same underinformed electorate that Democrats win with higher up the ballot. So are they stupid when they vote for your candidates, too?

  19. Recess Supervisor: I write at the risk of no coffee in my system yet.

    You say Dems moved to the center, but then you talk about campaigns many past. What about your more current winner? And Bush – our compassionate conservative spent like a Dem and went to church like a Republican. ;) So yes, to some extent I’m well aware the candidate under the center of the bell curve wins, but why no real discussion at to why Obama won?

    Or can anyone figure it out yet…

    (Republicans didn’t talk about gay marriage or abortion – Dems did to shove a wedge. And it worked.)

    Ok, so Republicans haven’t mastered the “easy” voter. It’s really hard to find a Republican driving a 15-seat van of voters to the polls.

  20. The no coffee must explain the comment “spent like a dem and went to church like a republican” no idea what that means…

    Obama won simply because he was hed and shoulders the better candidate. To RS point, President Obama is the best republican president we have had since Ike.

  21. There is that Jeff – except for the disaster Obama made of health care, he’s been grossly ineffective.

  22. I actually agree with you. Rolling out Romney care to the entire country instead of implementing a single payer health care system like we so desperately need was wrong.

    However with Romney care i tend to think the individual mandate is a good thing, maybe the only good thing to ever come from heritage Foundation.

    I take it your not bsing his ineffectiveness on (what are we now on) 28-29 months of straight job growth?

  23. Wait. I woke up and Romney was president?

    That kind of crap gets you no where, Jeff. Go shovel snow or something.

  24. Your not denying the fact that obamacare and romneycare are the same are you? or that Heritage Foundation came up with the individual mandate or that until Obama came up with it it was universally accepted on the right?

  25. Jeff – this argument is two years old:

    http://fairlyconservative.com/2011/04/22/romneycare-vs-obamacare/

    Either you don’t have anything new to argue, or you can’t manage to Move On. Dude. You are the supreme winner in all this! Go do a happy dance with all the Obama has given you over the last four years.

  26. Cindy did you actually read your old post? I love the nostalgia but look at the content.

    1. Huh?

    2. Romney incresed taxes by hundreds of millions of dollars to “balance the budget”….

    3. Obama took 14 months(hardly a rm down a throat) to pass Obamacare, working with republicans and corporate dems every step of the way. He had repubs help write pieces of the legislation to make it bill they could vote for and then they would vote against it anyway.

    4. Obamacare also Constitutional

  27. Randy in Richmond says:

    Help me out Jeff. Name the Republicans who helped write Obamacare. Don’t include Romney’s Mass. plan as that was a state plan unique to Mass.

  28. I’d like to ask fair-mined conservatives what qualifies as “ramming through” legislation. As Jeff notes, Obamacare was said to be rammed through, in 14 months.
    So was Act 10 rammed through or not? It was passed in little more than a month. If the 14 Senate Democrats hadn’t fled the state, it was scheduled to be passed in six days. (And on the seventh day, Scott Walker would rest?)

  29. Randy in Richmond says:

    Jeff
    That’s an impressive list of links you provide.

    Here’s what you said above:

    He had repubs help write pieces of the legislation…”

    Here’s what I asked you for:

    “Name the Republicans who helped write Obamacare.”

    None of the 6 links you provide names one Republican member of Congress who helped write the current law. Some may have been consulted but that’s far from writing it.

    He, I assume you are referring to the President, didn’t have one word of the law written by anyone other than Democrats.

    Your statement is false.

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