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One state might stand alone in vote-splitting plan

January 31, 2013 by NCC Staff


A plan in six states to change how their Electoral College votes are allocated seems to be mostly dead, with Pennsylvania as the lone holdout.

GOP lawmakers in the swing states of Florida, Virginia, Ohio, Wisconsin, and Michigan were considering bills that would divide each state’s electoral votes by congressional district, rather than granting all of their votes to the statewide popular vote winner.

Only two states, Nebraska and Maine, use a vote-splitting system, where each district gets one electoral vote, for the candidate that wins within the district. An additional two votes are given to the presidential candidate who wins the statewide popular vote.

Related Stories: Constitution Check: Is winner-take-all Electoral College voting in trouble? | States changing electoral vote methods nothing new

In 2008, candidate Barack Obama was able to pick up an extra electoral vote in Nebraska because of the system. It wasn’t a factor in the 2012 election.

A recent analysis on The Huffington Post showed that if all 50 states had used the vote-splitting system, Mitt Romney would have won the 2012 election for president.

A second analysis from The New York Times’ Nate Silver showed Romney winning the 2012 election--by one electoral vote--if just the six swing states had changed their laws.

Critics say the system is flawed because it is based on the concept of gerrymandering—the redrawing of congressional districts to favor a party.

But in recent days, governors in the four states have come out against the plan, or had serious doubts about it.

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder told Politico on Tuesday that we wanted to wait until such a plan could be done in a bipartisan manner.

Republican leaders in Ohio told a Cleveland newspaper on Tuesday they wouldn’t support a vote-splitting plan. On Friday, Virginia’s governor said the plan wouldn’t be pursued in his state.

Top GOP leaders in Florida oppose the plan, and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker is lukewarm at best.

“One of our advantages as a swing state is that candidates come here … that’s good for voters. If we change that, that would take that away and would largely make us irrelevant,” Walker said in a separate Politico interview.

The reality that Walker is talking about is what helped kill Pennsylvania’s vote-splitting plan a few years ago.

The concern in the Keystone State was that national political candidates, without the hope of a clean sweep of a winner-take-all state, wouldn’t spend money on television advertising.

Theoretically, if Pennsylvania had split its 20 electoral votes, the margin between Obama and Romney would have amounted to five or possibly six electoral votes—putting the state on par with smaller swing states like Iowa and Nevada.

So far, Pennsylvania lawmakers have drawn up House Bill 94, which calls for splitting the vote by congressional district.

Governor Tom Corbett has been fighting other political battles, and the controversy over vote splitting could end before he gets to comment on the bill. A similar proposal in 2011, which was backed by Corbett, was tabled late in the year.

Corbett and state Republicans also faced a considerable public backlash last year in a very public battle over voter ID laws, and Corbett is up for re-election in 2014.

Four GOP state reps in a seventh state, Washington, introduced an electoral change bill on Wednesday, but the measure is expected to go nowhere in a state with a strong Democrat presence.

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