CON Michigan's Electoral College split: A spiteful rule change

If you can’t win, change the rules

As legislators, it’s our job to write and pass laws that benefit Michigan citizens. We shouldn’t be considering or passing proposals that you could call “sour grapes” laws, yet that is exactly what Rep. Pete Lund is attempting with his legislation to radically change that way Michigan allocates Electoral College votes to a presidential candidate.

Under Lund’s bill, HB 5974, Michigan’s 16 Electoral College votes would be divvied up so that the top two presidential candidates could each win a percentage. Currently, the candidate who wins the popular vote receives all 16 Electoral College votes. Our winner-take-all system has been upheld as constitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court, and the idea of one person, one vote has been protected by the 14th Amendment through a number of court cases. Lund’s plan would attempt to subvert both the Supreme Court and the 14th Amendment protection.

HB 5974 could be up for a Constitutional challenge because it makes a mockery of one person, one vote. It’s no secret that our state most often prefers Democratic presidents to Republican. Under this proposal, instead of the popular vote winner taking all 16 votes, that person would get half plus one: nine votes. After that, for every 1.5 percentage points over 50 percent of the popular vote that the winner got, they would get another vote. The losing candidate would get the rest.

Lund argues that with our current system, Michigan isn’t relevant and we’re a flyover state. He believes presidential candidates largely ignore us. This is anything but true. In 2012, we saw the candidates campaigning in Michigan after the conventions. If anything, the Republican proposal would drive candidates away, because they wouldn’t be competing for 16 votes. Candidates aren’t going to spend time campaigning in a state if they have to split with the loser. In a state of almost 10 million people, our influence would be reduced to that of Delaware – population 925,000.

The reality is that this bill is a surrender by the Republicans, and they’re waving the white flag.

They believe that their party can’t win Michigan, so they are trying to get what they can for their candidates.

Even worse is that Michigan is one of only a few states where this is being considered – and all of those states have Republican majorities in their state legislatures, while the popular vote usually supports a Democratic nominee. That means that in the next presidential election, we could have states like Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin splitting their electoral votes, while states that usually deliver for Republican will still award 100 percent of those votes to the Republican. This is a national effort by Republicans to stack the deck in their favor that is just plain unfair.

As I said in the House Elections and Ethics Committee as we heard testimony on the bill, when I grew up, my dad always told me you play the game by the rules, win or lose. If you lose, you don't change the rules. If Republicans can’t win a presidential election in Michigan fair and square, they’ll change the rules in Democratic-leaning states while leaving Republican-leaning states alone. House Republicans are engaging in lawmaking at its cynical worst, and if they’re successful, they’ll disenfranchise many, many Michigan voters.

The testimony we heard from residents and experts both paint one picture – this bill will make Michigan a national joke. The best way to win elections is to find good candidates, not pass bad legislation.

PRO Michigan's Electoral College split: A return to relevancy

Bridge welcomes guest columns from a diverse range of people on issues relating to Michigan and its future. The views and assertions of these writers do not necessarily reflect those of Bridge or The Center for Michigan. Bridge does not endorse any individual guest commentary submission.

If you are interested in submitting a guest commentary, please contact Monica WilliamsClick here for details and submission guidelines.

Facts matter. Trust matters. Journalism matters.

If you learned something from the story you're reading please consider supporting our work. Your donation allows us to keep our Michigan-focused reporting and analysis free and accessible to all. All donations are voluntary, but for as little as $1 you can become a member of Bridge Club and support freedom of the press in Michigan during a crucial election year.

Pay with VISA Pay with MasterCard Pay with American Express Donate now

Comment Form

Add new comment

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
CAPTCHA
This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.

Comments

otto
Sat, 12/13/2014 - 2:09pm
As recently as December 11, 2008, The Michigan House of Representatives passed the National Popular Vote bill by a 65-36 margin, with 46 Democrats and 19 Republicans A survey of Michigan voters showed 73% overall support for a national popular vote for President. Support was 73% among independents, 78% among Democrats, and 68% among Republicans. By age, support was 77% among 18-29 year olds, 67% among 30-45 year olds, 74% among 46-65 year olds, and 75% for those older than 65. By gender, support was 86% among women and 59% among men. In Gallup polls since 1944, only about 20% of the public has supported the current system of awarding all of a state's electoral votes to the presidential candidate who receives the most votes in each separate state (with about 70% opposed and about 10% undecided). Support for a national popular vote is strong among Republicans, Democrats, and Independent voters, as well as every demographic group in every state surveyed recently. In virtually every of the 39 states surveyed, overall support has been in the 70-80% range or higher. - in recent or past closely divided battleground states, in rural states, in small states, in Southern and border states, in big states, and in other states polled. Obvious partisan machinations, like those proposed now in Michigan’s lame duck session, should add support for the National Popular Vote movement. If the party in control in each state is tempted every 2, 4, or 10 years (post-census) to consider rewriting election laws with an eye to the likely politically beneficial effects for their party in the next presidential election, then the National Popular Vote system, in which all voters across the country are guaranteed to be politically relevant and treated equally, is needed now more than ever. Americans believe that the candidate who receives the most votes should win. The National Popular Vote bill has passed 33 state legislative chambers in 22 rural, small, medium, large, red, blue, and purple states (including Michigan in 2008) with 250 electoral votes. The bill has been enacted by 11 jurisdictions with 165 electoral votes – 61% of the 270 necessary to go into effect. NationalPopularVote
P
Tue, 12/16/2014 - 8:01am
Exactly. The candidate with the most votes should win. So why don't get rid of the electoral college entirely and let the citizens vote directly for their candidate?
otto
Wed, 12/17/2014 - 2:10pm
To abolish the Electoral College would need a constitutional amendment, and could be stopped by states with as little as 3% of the U.S. population. Instead, by state laws, without changing anything in the Constitution, The National Popular Vote bill would guarantee the majority of Electoral College votes, and thus the presidency, to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in the country, by replacing state winner-take-all laws for awarding electoral votes. The National Popular Vote bill has passed 33 state legislative chambers in 22 rural, small, medium, large, red, blue, and purple states (including Michigan in 2008) with 250 electoral votes. The bill has been enacted by 11 jurisdictions with 165 electoral votes – 61% of the 270 necessary to go into effect. NationalPopularVote
otto
Sat, 12/13/2014 - 2:12pm
States have the responsibility and power to make their voters relevant in every presidential election. The National Popular Vote bill would guarantee the majority of Electoral College votes, and thus the presidency, to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in the country, by replacing state winner-take-all laws for awarding electoral votes. Every vote, everywhere, would be politically relevant and equal in presidential elections. No more distorting and divisive red and blue state maps of pre-determined outcomes. There would no longer be a handful of 'battleground' states where voters and policies are more important than those of the voters in 80% of the states, like Michigan, that now are just 'spectators' and ignored after the conventions. The bill would take effect when enacted by states with a majority of Electoral College votes—that is, enough to elect a President (270 of 538). The candidate receiving the most popular votes from all 50 states (and DC) would get all the 270+ electoral votes of the enacting states. The presidential election system, using the 48 state winner-take-all method or district winner method of awarding electoral votes, that we have today was not designed, anticipated, or favored by the Founders. It is the product of decades of change precipitated by the emergence of political parties and enactment by 48 states of winner-take-all laws, not mentioned, much less endorsed, in the Constitution. The bill uses the power given to each state by the Founders in the Constitution to change how they award their electoral votes for President. States can, and have, changed their method of awarding electoral votes over the years. Historically, major changes in the method of electing the President, including ending the requirement that only men who owned substantial property could vote and 48 current state-by-state winner-take-all laws, have come about by state legislative action.
Duane
Sun, 12/14/2014 - 12:43am
"...when I grew up, my dad always told me you play the game by the rules, win or lose. If you lose, you don’t change the rules." Do we really believe this is the Democrats mantra? Let's think about how US Senate Majority Leader changed the rules after he got frustrated by rules for approving Presidential nominees, how the President wrote Excutive orders when he doesn't like the election results. I wonder if Rep. Herroud thinks we should believe it is what he says and not what he does that counts, because what he says doesn't match what his Party does.
otto
Sun, 12/14/2014 - 1:41pm
In Gallup polls since 1944, only about 20% of the public has supported the current system of awarding all of a state's electoral votes to the presidential candidate who receives the most votes in each separate state (with about 70% opposed and about 10% undecided). During the course of campaigns, candidates are educated and campaign about the local, regional, and state issues most important to the handful of battleground states they need to win. They take this knowledge and prioritization with them once they are elected. Candidates need to be educated and care about all of our states. The current state-by-state winner-take-all method of awarding electoral votes (not mentioned in the U.S. Constitution, but later enacted by 48 states), under which all of a state's electoral votes are awarded to the candidate who gets the most votes in each separate state, ensures that the candidates, after the conventions, in 2012 did not reach out to about 80% of the states and their voters. 10 of the original 13 states are ignored now. Candidates had no reason to poll, visit, advertise, organize, campaign, or care about the voter concerns in the dozens of states where they were safely ahead or hopelessly behind. 80% of the states and people were just spectators to the presidential election. That's more than 85 million voters, more than 200 million Americans. Policies important to the citizens of non-battleground states are not as highly prioritized as policies important to ‘battleground’ states when it comes to governing. Since World War II, a shift of a few thousand votes in one or two states would have elected the second-place candidate in 4 of the 15 presidential elections
otto
Sun, 12/14/2014 - 1:42pm
The presidential election system, using the 48 state winner-take-all method or district winner method of awarding electoral votes, that we have today was not designed, anticipated, or favored by the Founding Fathers. It is the product of decades of change precipitated by the emergence of political parties and enactment by 48 states of winner-take-all laws, not mentioned, much less endorsed, in the Constitution. The Electoral College is now the set of 538 dedicated party activists, who vote as rubberstamps for presidential candidates. In the current presidential election system, 48 states award all of their electors to the winners of their state. This is not what the Founding Fathers intended. The Founding Fathers in the Constitution did not require states to allow their citizens to vote for president, much less award all their electoral votes based upon the vote of their citizens. The presidential election system we have today is not in the Constitution. State-by-state winner-take-all laws to award Electoral College votes, were eventually enacted by states, using their exclusive power to do so, AFTER the Founding Fathers wrote the Constitution. Now our current system can be changed by state laws again. Unable to agree on any particular method for selecting presidential electors, the Founding Fathers left the choice of method exclusively to the states in Article II, Section 1: “Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors….” The U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly characterized the authority of the state legislatures over the manner of awarding their electoral votes as "plenary" and "exclusive." The Constitution does not prohibit any of the methods that were debated and rejected. Indeed, a majority of the states appointed their presidential electors using two of the rejected methods in the nation's first presidential election in 1789 (i.e., appointment by the legislature and by the governor and his cabinet). Presidential electors were appointed by state legislatures for almost a century. Neither of the two most important features of the current system of electing the President (namely, universal suffrage, and the 48 state-by-state winner-take-all method) are in the U.S. Constitution. Neither was the choice of the Founders when they went back to their states to organize the nation's first presidential election. In 1789, in the nation's first election, the people had no vote for President in most states, only men who owned a substantial amount of property could vote, and only three states used the state-by-state winner-take-all method to award electoral votes. As an example of the many methods used over time, in just one state, Massachusetts' history of awarding electoral votes: ● In 1789, Massachusetts had a two-step system in which the voters cast ballots indicating their preference for presidential elector by district, and the legislature chose from the top two vote-getters in each district (with the legislature choosing the state’s remaining two electors). ● In 1792, the voters were allowed to choose presidential electors in four multi-member regional districts (with the legislature choosing the state’s remaining two electors). ● In 1796, the voters elected presidential electors by congressional districts (with the legislature choosing only the state’s remaining two electors). ● In 1800, the legislature took back the power to pick all of the state’s presidential electors (entirely excluding the voters). ● In 1804, the voters were allowed to elect 17 presidential electors by district and two on a statewide basis. ● In 1808, the legislature decided to pick the electors itself. ● In 1812, the voters elected six presidential electors from one district, five electors from another district, four electors from another, three electors from each of two districts, and one elector from a sixth district. ● In 1816, Massachusetts again returned to state legislative choice. ● In 1820, the voters were allowed to elect 13 presidential electors by district and two on a statewide basis. ● Then, in 1824, Massachusetts adopted its 10th method of awarding electoral votes, namely the statewide winner-take-all rule that is in effect today. ● Finally, in 2010, Massachusetts changed its method of appointing its presidential electors by enacting the National Popular Vote interstate compact. This change will go into effect when states possessing a majority of the electoral votes (270 out of 538) enact the same compact. The current winner-take-all method of awarding electoral votes is not in the U.S. Constitution. It was not debated at the Constitutional Convention. It is not mentioned in the Federalist Papers. It was not the Founders’ choice. It was used by only three states in 1789, and all three of them repealed it by 1800. It is not entitled to any special deference based on history or the historical meaning of the words in the U.S. Constitution. The actions taken by the Founding Fathers make it clear that they never gave their imprimatur to the winner-take-all method. The winner-take-all method of awarding electoral votes became dominant only in the 1830s, when most of the Founders had been dead for decades, after the states adopted it, one-by-one, in order to maximize the power of the party in power in each state. The constitutional wording does not encourage, discourage, require, or prohibit the use of any particular method for awarding a state's electoral votes. As a result of changes in state laws enacted since 1789, the people have the right to vote for presidential electors in 100% of the states, there are no property requirements for voting in any state, and the state-by-state winner-take-all method is used by 48 of the 50 states. States can, and have, changed their method of awarding electoral votes over the years. Maine and Nebraska do not use the winner-take-all method.
Gene
Sun, 12/14/2014 - 7:41pm
We are long over due to go to a national popular vote and drop the Electoral College all together. We do not need more Florida's and Supreme Court decisions electing the president. Without the Electoral College we could finally end the embargo with Cuba that the Florida vote controls. Everyone knows in this day and age that it is a ridiculous policy to continue and only prolongs the current regime that would be gone in a short time without it. Further is would help to reduce the influence of "Big Money" if they had to spend nationwide instead of in the most influential Electoral College states.
Matt
Mon, 12/15/2014 - 1:14pm
Dream on!!! The law of unintended consequences guarantees that going to popular vote nationally only won't usher in paradise. One scenario, you can be certain that the peace we enjoy as being a reliable blue presidential state or visa versa for other states will be gone meaning more commercials (Read MORE MONEY spent on campaigns!!). There goes the entire thing. Likewise I'm not sure I'd want to see the additional adds changing Michigan would span.
otto
Mon, 12/15/2014 - 3:11pm
With National Popular Vote, the United States would still elect the President by a majority of Electoral College votes by states. Presidential candidates currently do everything within their power to raise as much money as they possibly can from donors throughout the country. They then allocate their time and the money that they raise nationally to places where it will do the most good toward their goal of winning the election. Money doesn't grow on trees. The fact that candidates would spend their money more broadly (that is, in all 50 states and DC) would not, in itself, loosen up the wallet of a single donor anywhere in the country. Candidates will continue to try to raise as much money as economic considerations permit. Economic considerations by donors determines how much money will be available, not the existence of an increases number of places where the money might be spent. Presidential candidates concentrate their attention on only a handful of closely divided "battleground" states and their voters. There is no incentive for them to bother to care about the majority of states where they are hopelessly behind or safely ahead to win. 10 of the original 13 states are ignored now. Four out of five Americans were ignored in the 2012 presidential election. After being nominated, Obama visited just eight closely divided battleground states, and Romney visited only 10. These 10 states accounted for 98% of the $940 million spent on campaign advertising. They decided the election. That's precisely what they should do in order to get elected with the current system, because the voters of 80% of the states simply don't matter. Candidates have no reason to poll, visit, advertise, organize, campaign, or care about the concerns of voters in states where they are safely ahead or hopelessly behind. Over 85 million voters, more than 200 million Americans, are ignored. If every voter mattered throughout the United States, as it would under a national popular vote, candidates would reallocate their time and the money they raise. A nationwide presidential campaign, with every voter equal, would be run the way presidential candidates campaign to win the electoral votes of closely divided battleground states, such as Ohio and Florida, under the state-by-state winner-take-all methods. In Iowa, Ohio, Florida, and Virginia (the four states that accounted for over two-thirds of all general-election activity in the 2012 presidential election) rural areas, suburbs, exurbs, and cities all received attention—roughly in proportion to their population. Iowa has four congressional districts (each, of course, with equal population). The presidential candidates campaigned approximately equally in each part of the state in the 2012 presidential election. The itineraries of presidential candidates in battleground states (and their allocation of other campaign resources in battleground states) reflect the political reality that every gubernatorial or senatorial candidate knows. When and where every voter is equal, a campaign of polling, visiting, advertising, and organizing must be run everywhere. With National Popular Vote, when every voter is equal, everywhere, it makes sense for presidential candidates to try and elevate their votes where they are and aren't so well liked. But, under the state-by-state winner-take-all laws, it makes no sense for a Democrat to try and do that in Vermont or Wyoming, or for a Republican to try it in Wyoming or Vermont. During the course of campaigns, candidates are educated and campaign about the local, regional, and state issues most important to the handful of battleground states they need to win. They take this knowledge and prioritization with them once they are elected. Candidates need to be educated and care about all of our states. The number and population of battleground states is shrinking. Policies important to the citizens of non-battleground states are not as highly prioritized as policies important to the handful of ‘battleground’ states when it comes to governing. Charlie Cook reported in 2004: “Senior Bush campaign strategist Matthew Dowd pointed out yesterday that the Bush campaign hadn’t taken a national poll in almost two years; instead, it has been polling [in the then] 18 battleground states.” [only 10 in 2012] Bush White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer acknowledging the reality that [then] more than 2/3rds of Americans were ignored in the 2008 presidential campaign, said in the Washington Post on June 21, 2009: “If people don’t like it, they can move from a safe state to a swing state.” State-by-state winner-take-all laws adversely affect governance. Sitting Presidents (whether contemplating their own re-election or the election of their preferred successor) pay inordinate attention to the interests of “battleground” states. ** “Battleground” states receive over 7% more grants than other states. ** “Battleground” states receive 5% more grant dollars. ** A “battleground” state can expect to receive twice as many presidential disaster declarations as an uncompetitive state. ** The locations of Superfund enforcement actions also reflect a state’s battleground status. ** Federal exemptions from the No Child Left Behind law have been characterized as “‘no swing state left behind.” The effect of the current state-by-state winner-take-all system on governance is discussed at length in Presidential Pork by Dr. John Hudak of the Brookings Institution. Compare the response to hurricane Katrina (in Louisiana, a "safe" state) to the federal response to hurricanes in Florida (a "swing" state) under Presidents of both parties. President Obama took more interest in the BP oil spill, once it reached Florida's shores, after it had first reached Louisiana. Some pandering policy examples include ethanol subsidies, Steel Tariffs, and Medicare Part D. Policies not given priority, include those most important to non-battleground states - like water issues in the west
Jim
Wed, 12/17/2014 - 6:30am
There are two issues here. First, Should the election of president be by popular vote of all the states. Count me in! Two, should Michigan change to some bastardized voting system while "red" states continue to award all electoral votes to the state winner. Never! Jim