Altering Electoral College count is ridiculous

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Having given up on winning national elections fair and square, Republican governors and GOP-dominated legislatures in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Florida, Wisconsin and Virginia have been eyeing changes to the Electoral College that could make them competitive nationally again.

The scheme, cut from the same legislative cloth as the spectacularly failed voter ID boondoggle of 2012, would move these Democratic-leaning states from a winner-take-all presidential vote result system to one where a candidate would be allocated Electoral College votes by the number of congressional districts won.

Mitt Romney would have "won" 13 of Pennsylvania's 20 electoral votes under this plan, even though he lost the popular vote in Pennsylvania and every other state where Republican legislatures have given the notion of nullifying the votes of city-dwellers serious consideration in recent weeks. That's how they do it in Maine and Nebraska, two under-populated states that Republicans in much bigger, more cosmopolitan states are itching to emulate.

Fortunately, embarrassment over the brazenness of this tactic has considerably slowed momentum for turning our democracy upside down. In Virginia, where the Republican Legislature pushed through a plan last week, Gov. Bob McDonnell broke with his Republican colleagues and insisted he was fine with the state's existing laws.

Already typecast by the national media as "Governor Vaginal Probe," Mr. McDonnell suddenly cares about how he's perceived beyond his state's borders. Perhaps his rumored presidential ambitions have something to do with it. If the news got out that he supported rigging the vote in his state by signing the legislation into law, it would be problematic for him in 2016. That's why Mr. McDonnell and several Republican colleagues joined the state's outraged Democrats in denouncing the scheme.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder admit to being intrigued by efforts to change the rules for electing presidents in their states if their legislatures can get a bill to them worth signing. These two wily Midwestern governors who won elections by faking "moderation" are nothing if not opportunistic, which explains why they're keeping their options open. Mr. Walker, who narrowly survived a recall effort last fall, is touted by the Republican hard right as a viable presidential candidate for 2016, a notion that causes most Democrats to salivate uncontrollably.

One would assume Florida Gov. Rick Scott would be out in front of this issue given his state's shameful election year shenanigans, but he's not. Mr. Scott, whose contempt for democracy manifested itself last November when voters in south Florida had to stand in line as long as nine hours, hasn't jumped on the Electoral College re-allotment bandwagon, which is news in itself.

Mr. Scott isn't a lightweight when it comes to disenfranchising voters. He signed legislation limiting early voting in his state, hoping it would adversely impact Democratic-leaning districts. Although an estimated 11,000 Floridians were discouraged from voting, the turnout for President Barack Obama there swamped Republican expectations. Mr. Scott knows he'll have to answer to those same voters next year, so he's trying to limit his voter suppression schemes to one every six months.

Closer to home, Gov. Tom Corbett, who supported a similar vote-rigging scheme for the Electoral College two years ago, when state lawmakers were looking for ways to rationalize it, has been cagey about whether he still supports the effort. Although Mr. Corbett is credited with coming up with the 2011 version of this evil piece of legislation, he has left the dirty work to Pennsylvania Senate Republican Leader Dominic Pileggi to bring the hammer down on the fingers of democracy.

Meanwhile, Mr. Corbett's office insists that the governor isn't familiar with vote-rigging plans now kicking around the Legislature or anywhere else. This is in keeping with his usual style of feigning cluelessness in all things until the last possible moment. With 2014 looming, Mr. Corbett doesn't want to be accused of having the courage of his convictions. That wouldn't go over well when campaigning in a state full of enraged Democrats.

Slowly but surely, concerned citizens around the state are beginning to realize that the only way to guarantee that we don't wake up in a commonwealth resembling a Third World fiefdom is to take back control of the Legislature and the governor's mansion in 2014. Pennsylvania is a blue state. Let's end this undignified experiment in Republican leadership while our votes still count.

tonynorman

Tony Norman: tnorman@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1631. Twitter: @TonyNormanPG.


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