Tom Zirpoli: GOP wants rules change to gain votes

During the last presidential election, President Barack Obama won the state of Virginia by 149,298 votes. giving him all 15 of Virginia's Electoral College votes. But a new proposal being discussed by Republican legislators there and elsewhere would have resulted in Obama receiving only four of Virginia's 15 Electoral College votes.

Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, who secured 48.7 percent of the vote in Virginia, would have received 11, or 73 percent of the Electoral College votes.

In Michigan, a similar Republican proposal would have given Romney nine out of 16 Electoral College votes, even though Obama won the state by 449,313 votes.

How could this be?

With the exception of Nebraska and Maine, the presidential candidate with the majority of votes in each state receives all the Electoral College votes from that state. The candidate with 270 Electoral College votes wins the national election.

In most states, the majority of voters live in cities. What Republicans in Virginia and elsewhere want to do is give their conservative rural state districts containing thousands of people the same electoral weight as their state districts containing millions of people.

So what do Republicans have against their city and suburban citizens? Simple: they don't like the way they vote.

Republicans are losing the ability to win state-wide races in places like Virginia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. But for now they control the state legislatures in these states and they can change the rules of how their Electoral College votes are distributed.

Their goal is to rig the system in favor of Republicans candidates who usually win the small rural districts within their states, but lose to the majority of voters who live in their state's cities and suburbs.

In other words, they can't win a majority of voters in these states any more, so they want to rig the system so that their candidates win the majority of Electoral College votes anyway. In their proposal, the amount of land a district includes would become more important than the number of people who live in each district.

Of course, these proposals are not democratic and destroy the concept of one person, one vote. For example, while 51 percent of Virginians voted for Obama, the Republican proposal would have awarded him only 27 percent of Virginia's Electoral College votes.

As blogger Paul Bibeau writes, "This bill counts an Obama voter as 3/5 of a person."

Evidently, Republicans don't believe that people who live in their state's cities and suburbs count as much as their rural, more conservative constituents. This is an interesting concept, but has no place in a democracy where everyone's vote should be counted equally.

If Republicans think that the current Electoral College system is unfair, there are two alternatives that protect the concept of majority rule. First, we could get rid of the Electoral College altogether and have a straight popular vote for president. But Republicans don't like direct national elections where the majority rules. Don't forget that Al Gore won the popular vote over George W. Bush in 2000 by 543,895 votes. Bush won the presidency only because he won 271 Electoral College votes to Gore's 266 votes.

In a second alternative, Electoral College votes could be distributed in proportion to the popular vote of each state. Thus, where Obama won 51 percent of the vote in Virginia, he would be awarded 51 percent of Virginia's 15 Electoral College votes. The candidate with the majority of Electoral College votes would then be declared the winner.

Neither of these fair alternatives, however, would have ensured a Republican win of the White House in 2012 and, thus, neither is under consideration. In the minds of at least some Republicans, the outcome is far more important than the process, no matter how corrupt, dishonest or undemocratic.

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