We’ve often noted here that the University of Virginia’s Larry Sabato and his ace team of political analysts and contributors are not just the most perceptive group of analysts on the American scene, but among the most accurate when it comes to forecasting elections. They’re the anti-Dick-Morris. And the latest edition of Sabato’s Crystal Ball has a warning: the GOP’s plans to rig the electoral college (basically wiping away elections have been held in this country with all but a few exceptions) would undermine democracy.

Here’s Sabato’s lead in but you can tell by it how he views the plan:

Republicans are struggling to right their ship after the defeat of 2012. The unfavorable demographic trends for the GOP that we describe in our new book, Barack Obama and the New America, have sunk in, and the party knows it must do something. We have solicited ideas ourselves, believing that it is vital for America to have vigorous party competition. You will see some of those ideas, offered by our readers and Twitter colleagues, here. But nestled among the constructive ideas is a truly rotten one, the proposal to fix and game the Electoral College to give a sizable additional advantage to the Republican nominee for president.

We have asked Crystal Ball Senior Columnist Alan Abramowitz, Alben W. Barkley Professor of Political Science at Emory University, to examine the proposal and outline its likely effects. As we suspected, it would permit a GOP nominee to capture the White House even while losing the popular vote by many millions. This is not a relatively small Electoral College “misfire” on the order of 1888 or 2000. Instead, it is a corrupt and cynical maneuver to frustrate popular will and put a heavy thumb — the whole hand, in fact — on the scale for future Republican candidates. We do not play presidential politics with a golf handicap awarded to the weaker side.

Republicans face a choice that can best be characterized by personalizing it. A healthy, optimistic party is Reaganesque, convinced that it can win the future by embracing it, and by making a positive case for its philosophy and candidates to all Americans. A party in decline is Nixonian and fears the future; it sees enemies everywhere, feels overwhelmed by electoral trends, and thinks it can win only by cheating, by subverting the system and stacking the deck in its favor. Whose presidency was more successful, Reagan’s or Nixon’s? Which man made the Republican brand more appealing?

– Larry J. Sabato, for the editors of The Crystal Ball

And here are a few chunks of the analysis by Alan I. Abramowitz, Senior Columnist:

After losing the popular vote in five of the last six presidential elections and seeing Barack Obama sweep to a surprisingly easy reelection victory in 2012, Republican leaders and strategists are understandably worried about their party’s prospects in future presidential contests. There is no doubt that the GOP faces major challenges as a result of the nation’s shifting demographics and a growing Democratic advantage in the Electoral College.

Democratic presidential candidates have carried 18 states and the District of Columbia with a total of 242 electoral votes in all four elections since 2000, and another three states with 15 electoral votes in three of those elections. In addition, three of the five states that have voted twice for each party since 2000 — Colorado, Nevada and Virginia, with a total of 28 electoral votes — clearly appear to be trending Democratic. That gives Democrats a base of 24 states plus the District of Columbia in which they have the advantage going into the next presidential election. Those states have 285 electoral votes — 15 votes more than needed to win the presidency.

Of course there is no guarantee that Democrats will carry all of these states in 2016. That will depend on the condition of the U.S. economy and the mood of the country at that time as well as whom the parties nominate to succeed Barack Obama. But recent trends certainly look ominous for the GOP.

As the electorate continues to become less white and more liberal in its outlook on social issues, Republicans have two choices about how to improve their party’s prospects in future presidential elections. One approach would be to adopt more moderate positions on issues such as immigration, abortion, gay rights and health care in order to make their party more appealing to young people, women and nonwhites. But that strategy would risk alienating a large portion of the GOP’s current base, especially those aligned with the Tea Party movement. So rather than adopting that risky strategy, some Republican leaders appear to be opting for a different approach — changing the electoral rules to make it easier for a Republican candidate to win the presidency despite losing the popular vote.

Several Republican governors and state legislative leaders in key battleground states have recently expressed support for a plan to change the method of awarding their state’s electoral votes from the current winner-take-all system to one in which one vote would be awarded to the winner of each congressional district in the state and two votes would be awarded to the statewide winner. In the aftermath of the GOP’s 2012 defeat, this plan appears to be gaining momentum and was recently endorsed by the chairman of the Republican National Committee, Reince Priebus. On Wednesday, a bill to apportion electors by congressional district advanced through a subcommittee in the Virginia Senate.

The congressional district plan appears reasonable at first glance. After all, why give all of a state’s electoral votes to the candidate who wins statewide no matter how narrow that candidate’s margin? Awarding electoral votes by congressional district would seem to provide a fairer and more balanced alternative to the winner-take-all system. But there is a serious problem with this approach. Despite a superficial appearance of fairness, the congressional district plan would be profoundly undemocratic — skewing the results in favor of the party drawing the congressional district lines in a state and greatly increasing the chances of an Electoral College misfire (a victory by the candidate losing the national popular vote).

The congressional district system, if adopted for the entire nation, would give Republicans a major advantage in presidential elections. That’s because Republicans controlled the redistricting process after the 2010 census in far more states than Democrats as a result of the GOP’s big gains in the 2010 midterm elections. By drawing congressional districts that favored the GOP, Republican state legislatures and governors gave their party a big edge in the battle for control of the House of Representatives. The result was that in 2012, even though Democratic candidates outpolled Republican candidates by more than a million votes across the nation, Republicans kept control of the House by a margin of 234 seats to 201 seats.

And, at the end:

The current method of allocating electoral votes, based on a winner-take-all rule in every state except Maine and Nebraska, actually serves to closely approximate the ideal method of choosing the president in a democracy: direct popular election. Under the current system, there is a very close relationship between the outcome of the popular vote and the outcome of the electoral vote. Only once since 1888 has a president won the electoral vote while losing the popular vote. That happened in 2000, but a very strong case can be made that the 2000 “misfire” was less a result of the Electoral College itself than of serious flaws in the voting process in Florida.

If we can’t have direct popular election of the president — the method that would clearly be the most democratic and the method that polls have consistently found that the large majority of Americans favor — then the next best method of choosing the president is probably the current one of awarding electoral votes on a winner-take-all basis. The current system appears to minimize the chances of an electoral vote misfire in which the winner of the popular vote loses the electoral vote. In contrast, the congressional district method would greatly increase the chances of such a misfire.

Under current circumstances, the congressional district system could well result in a Republican victory even if the Democratic candidate were to win the popular vote by a substantial margin. Such a situation would undoubtedly lead to widespread questioning of the legitimacy of the election and, potentially, a public backlash against the victorious Republican candidate and the GOP itself. Before engaging in a cynical attempt to rig the electoral system, Republican leaders and strategists should consider the potential harm that their actions could do to our democratic form of government and to their own party

Prediction: the Republicans will try it…bigtime.

The questions: are a)the Democrats prepared for it? b)what will they do about it? c)what impact will this have on independent and moderate voters who may not like the electoral college but will like it even LESS if they see Republicans (again) pulling out all stops to prevent certain types of voters from going to the polls and/or fixing the system so they have a built in advantage that means they don’t have to try and offer voters a bigger tent.

graphic via shutterstock.com

JOE GANDELMAN, Editor-In-Chief
Sort by:   newest | oldest
clarkma5
Guest
clarkma5
3 years 8 months ago
One approach would be to adopt more moderate positions on issues such as immigration, abortion, gay rights and health care in order to make their party more appealing to young people, women and nonwhites. But that strategy would risk alienating a large portion of the GOP’s current base, especially those aligned with the Tea Party movement. My mind is boggled that this is actually the logic (it is) because there’s no place for people who are farther right to go! If you hold right, you lose center-right votes to the democrats. If you move center, you lose right-wing votes to…who,… Read more »
zephyr
Guest
zephyr
3 years 8 months ago

Instead of learning from their mistakes and working to become a party rational and decent people might actually want to become a part of they choose to abandon even more principles in their pursuit of power. When will the American people say they’ve had enough of these dangerous fools?

andrewb87
Guest
andrewb87
3 years 8 months ago
One of the reasons why the Electoral College has remained in effect for all of these years is because it is assumed that all of the swing states benefit so greatly from the attention and advertising dollars, that no politician from these states would advocate eliminating it. However, if the state republicans are willing to sacrifice the attention and money that comes from these contests, then they can not logically oppose shifting to a popular vote, at least not on those grounds. This could be a unique opportunity to push for the elimination of the Electoral College. Sign the petition… Read more »
sheknows
Guest
sheknows
3 years 8 months ago

Apparently they can just redistrict anything they want and no one can/will stop them. This is what I do not understand.
We have already seen this happening and also their trying to supress the vote.
I guess I just don’t get it. Everyone sees it, everyone complains about it, everyone agrees that it’s sleazoid tactics and may actually be unconstitutional, but LEGALLY no one seems to be able to stop it.

Is this really the United States???

zephyr
Guest
zephyr
3 years 8 months ago

Sheknows, your question is the right one. I’ve been watching this country slowly and inexorably morph into a state whose powers and authorities are increasingly immune to common sense, empathy, intellect, ethics and accountability. Much of the citizenry, the electorate have been complicit by way of ignorance and partisanship, meanwhile the rest of us have been pulling our hair out. Eventually something’s gotta give..

Willwright
Guest
Willwright
3 years 8 months ago
I doubt this will get very far. Even low information voters would see this as a blatant attempt to rig the game. If a citizens revolt with millions marching on state houses and Washington didn’t work, I doubt it would stand up in many courts. People would be so mad that the GOP would be lucky to register in the high single digits in the next election. There might be a few people in the GOP that think they could implement this and that nobody would notice. But with further reflection the idea will fizzle out even with the GOP.… Read more »
petew
Guest
petew
3 years 8 months ago
The Republican party of late has been busy demonstrating its ability to use subterfuge in order to influence pubic opinion. They have done so with voter suppression efforts, attempting to discredit climate scientists and, by supporting transparently unfair laws like Citizens United. They have done this with a massive drive towards disinformation and by projecting their own vices onto liberals and Democrats in General. This is the work of ALEC—formed and implemented over many decades. One might support the idea of an electoral college as it now exists, But attempts to rig the system and gerrymander districts according to the… Read more »
zusa1
Guest
zusa1
3 years 8 months ago
Both parties try to manipulate the rules to gain advantage. How many times have Dem’s changed the senate vacancy law in Massachusetts? They were considering doing it again: “This time around, as the likelihood of a Kerry nomination grew in Washington, speculation arose that the Legislature might try to avoid a special election by returning to the law in existence before 2004. But no serious effort to do so was mounted at the Statehouse. “It would have been embarrassing and hypocritical for Democrats to change the law after only a few years, said Todd Domke, a Republican political strategist. ‘‘They… Read more »
sheknows
Guest
sheknows
3 years 8 months ago

Both parties do look for an edge, however a special election vs redistricting and voter suppression. Like apples and skyscrapers.

petew
Guest
petew
3 years 8 months ago

zuzai,

Yes, they both absolutely do seek political advantage, but, most of us can’t help but believe that Democrats are mere amateurs compared to the use of unethical practices by Republicans. They are bringing this game to a whole new level that American voters are beginning to get hip to, and to dislike!

zusa1
Guest
zusa1
3 years 7 months ago

“Why are Democrats so uniformly opposed to proof of citizenship in order to vote? ”

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/howard-foster/democrats-benefit-from-illegal-immigrants-voting_b_1418523.html

zusa1
Guest
zusa1
3 years 7 months ago

This white paper found that districts drawn with total GOP control are more compact than those drawn with total Democratic control, and that districts drawn by a non-partisan process are more compact than those drawn when either party had control. So it’s not that Dem’s are opposed to gerrymandering, but don’t like it if the other party gets to do it more. I doubt they would be complaining if the shoe was on the other foot. It would be something like “We won the (2010) election..get over it.”

https://s3.amazonaws.com/s3.azavea.com/com.redistrictingthenation/pdfs/Redistricting_The_Nation_Addendum.pdf

zephyr
Guest
zephyr
3 years 7 months ago

Of course democrats want power too, and cherry-picking easily yields examples, but petew is right about their amateur status; they just aren’t as blatantly ruthless and unprincipled when it comes to means vs ends power grabs. Republicans are becoming more and more open about their contempt for democracy as the century wears on. Democrats see this, independents see it, moderates see it, traditional republicans see it… only hard core rightwingers refuse to see it.

petew
Guest
petew
3 years 7 months ago
Zusai, Without knowing a great deal about Illegal immigration as it relates to fraudulent voting, I would offer the following: 1. I know that a great many studies done by respectable institutions have failed to discover any significant number of voters who deliberately misrepresent themselves as being someone else—the type of fraud supposedly done, according to many Republicans who support voter ID laws. 2. The issue of presenting certain documents as proof in order to secure proper voting IDs, does discriminate against many poor, elderly, handicapped, and black people, as well as many students who are not normally residents of… Read more »
petew
Guest
petew
3 years 7 months ago

After Googeling the name “Howard Foster,” who is the author of the post article provided by zusai’s link, It was no surprise to discover that he has many extremely partisan views on almost all political controversies. Yes, Democrats also have many partisan viewpoints, but it should be remembered that, predisposed opinions about issues like voter IDs, requiring objective analysis, are not decided the most fairly by those who follow party lines exclusively on almost every issue. I would much prefer the ACLU or Harvard law professors.

I’m just saying!

zusa1
Guest
zusa1
3 years 7 months ago
“It must be remembered that voter impersonation is a Federal crime, punishable by imprisonment, and, it makes no sense that an illegal immigrant would risk federal imprisonment of deportation, by undertaking such a risky thing.” What threat is a law that is rarely if ever enforced? The votes cast by non-citizens probably aren’t disenfranchising Dem’s so maybe that is why they are tolerant of it. A Florida news station found 100 non citizens registered to vote just in preparing for a news story. “County supervisors of elections tell me they have no way to verify citizenship. Under the 1992 Motor… Read more »
ProfElwood
Guest
3 years 7 months ago

Outside of being a street beggar, how do people do things without a positive ID? Without ID, you can’t use banks, drive, buy liquor, get welfare benefits, apply for a job, or even park on campus.

Of course, most of the fraud that I’m familiar with, is from absentee ballots, which don’t require any ID, and which are now even more popular since Indiana’s voter ID law went into effect.

zusa1
Guest
zusa1
3 years 7 months ago

In Washington State, it got to be too much work “finding” “lost” ballots, so we are now mail in. So much easier.

Ethics run deep in this family.
http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-250_162-57539706/congressmans-son-resigns-after-voter-fraud-video/

The_Ohioan
Guest
The_Ohioan
3 years 7 months ago
In Michigan, and I assume other states, you must be a registered voter to receive an absentee ballot. As a registered voter, you may obtain an absentee voter ballot if you are: age 60 years old or older unable to vote without assistance at the polls expecting to be out of town on election day in jail awaiting arraignment or trial unable to attend the polls due to religious reasons appointed to work as an election inspector in a precinct outside of your precinct of residence. A person who registers to vote by mail must vote in person in the… Read more »
oldgulph
Guest
oldgulph
3 years 7 months ago
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, The National Popular Vote bill would guarantee the Presidency to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states (and DC), by state laws. Every vote, everywhere, would be politically relevant and equal in presidential elections. No more distorting and divisive red and blue state maps. 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… Read more »
petew
Guest
petew
3 years 7 months ago
zuzai, In regards to some of the reports of mass voter impersonation fraud—many extensive investigations have been done to verify the existence of such forms of fraud, but virtually all of them have failed to provide positive evidence of such schemes, which are supposedly supported by Democrats in order influence elections in their favor. In fact, the results have been just the opposite—at best only a handful of voters have ever attempted to commit such fraud, and some of these votes are cast out simply because many ex-cons assume that they can vote after being released. As far as the… Read more »
ProfElwood
Guest
3 years 7 months ago

I’ve talked to members of my county’s election board personally. They throw out absentee ballots on a regular basis, when the signatures clearly don’t match (a sign that the ballot was forged), or the address is from outside the county. They don’t throw out the ones where large numbers of ballots come from the same address or batches that are turned in together have the same handwriting. There’s simply no money available to investigate those cases, and both parties depend on those ballots. Neither party can go after those questionable cases without risking damage to their own party leaders.

Dorian de Wind, Military Affairs Columnist
Member

I know that I could write all night and still not convince anyone concerning what these new voting laws really permit

Here’s one person who is seriously reading and considering your reasoned words, Petew.

I much rather read — and get much more out of it — your comments than some of the tired quotes and predictable links that are frequently cobbled together.

zusa1
Guest
zusa1
3 years 7 months ago

Petew, Did you watch/read the news reports I posted? It is not voter impersonation that is addressed. It is falsely claiming US citizenship and registering to vote. The reporter got the names was from a list of people who asked to be excused from jury duty because they were not a US citizen.

Similar story in Texas.
http://www.kvue.com/news/Registered-to-vote-but-noncitizens-176894981.html

petew
Guest
petew
3 years 7 months ago
Zusai, I would suppose that deliberately misrepresenting US citizenship is also a kind of voter fraud having to do with deliberately presenting false information and falsely claiming that you are someone you are NOT. However, I am not sure if the data I have read includes that kind of misrepresentation specifically. But,there is no doubt that Reporter Andy Pierrotti of KVUE seems to have solid credentials—even winning an Edward R. Murrow award for his reporting, however the article he wrote on Nov. 1st 2012 does not seem to offer proof of ANY large scale voting fraud of this type Concerning… Read more »
zusa1
Guest
zusa1
3 years 7 months ago

“said they never intentionally registered to vote, and from what I gather from the rest of the article, there is no need to NOT believe their explanations.”

They would be confessing to a felony otherwise. That’s a pretty good reason.

Do you believe federal law should require proof of citizenship to register to vote? Disenfranchisement occurs two ways, and neither one is acceptable.

zusa1
Guest
zusa1
3 years 7 months ago

petew,
“all said they never intentionally registered to vote, and from what I gather from the rest of the article, there is no need to NOT believe their explanations.”

I doubt any of them wanted to confess to a felony.

Disenfranchisement occurs two ways and both are unacceptable. Would you support a federal law requiring proof of citizenship when registering to vote?

wpDiscuz