Last month, Republicans in several swing states—Virginia, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania—floated a change that would give the GOP a decisive advantage in presidential elections. As it stands, most states, sans Nebraska and Maine, distribute their electoral votes in a winner-take-all system—if you win the state, you win the electoral votes. What Republicans have proposed is a system where electoral votes are distributed by congressional district—if you win the district, then you win the votes.
The problem, as I explained last month, is that Democrats tend to cluster in urban areas, packing their voters into a handful of districts. By contrast, Republicans control more land. This scheme would privilege the GOP for having an advantage with land, and disadvantage Democrats for representing population dense areas.
Outrage from this proposal exploded as soon as people realized its implications, and one by one, Republicans have backed away from it. Yesterday, the Wisconsin State Journal reported that Wisconsin Representative (and former vice presidential nominee) Paul Ryan—the de facto leader of the Republican Party—has also signaled his opposition to the change:
Republican Govs. Scott Walker and Rick Snyder of Michigan have both been quoted as expressing concerns over changing Electoral College votes. The Virginia Legislature killed a similar proposal in committee this week. Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, said he doesn’t dismiss the idea but it’s not high on his agenda.
Ryan, R-Janesville, said he would prefer that Wisconsin stay a winner-take-all state.
“I’ve always kind of liked the idea of being targeted as a state,” Ryan told the Wisconsin State Journal editorial board on Tuesday. “I’d hate to be a flyover state. I’d like to be in the hunt for being a targeted state. I think it’s good for us.”
If it wasn’t already a dead idea, this is a sure sign the national GOP has no (public) interest in pursuing it. There’s just too much political danger in trying to—or appearing to—slant the playing field in your favor by changing the rules. Of course, that won’t necessarily stop state-level Republicans from following through on proposals.