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.
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