If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.
That appears to be Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus’ philosophy when it comes to rigging elections in the GOP’s favor. In 2012, the strategy was suppressing votes through polling place Photo ID restriction laws, ending same-day voter registration, and clamping down on early voting, among other restrictive legislation. According to the Brennan Center for Justice, 25 laws and two executive actions were passed in 19 states over the past two years with the aim of making it harder to vote.
In 2013, the plan appears to be changing the way that votes are counted. Priebus has stepped forward as the latest Republican to support a proposal that would split Wisconsin’s electoral votes by congressional district.
"I think it’s something that a lot of states that have been consistently blue that are fully controlled red ought to be looking at," Priebus said of the plan, which would deliver two electoral votes to the winner of the popular vote in the state, and divide the rest based on who wins each Congressional district.
As Dave Weigel points out at Slate, in 2011 Wisconsin’s Republican-controlled statehouse gerrymandered the state’s districts to create five Republican seats and three Democratic seats. Under the Priebus-backed proposal, Mitt Romney would have won as many electors in Wisconsin as President Obama, despite winning 213,019 fewer votes.
Unsurprisingly, the victims of this plan would be the same urban voters whom an apparently shocked Paul Ryan blamed for the Republican defeat in 2012, and whom most voter suppression efforts in the last election targeted.
According to National Journal’s Reid Wilson, Republicans are already preparing electoral vote-splitting laws in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania, and hope to eventually expand the push to Florida, Ohio, and Virginia. If the GOP had successfully enacted the laws in all six states before the 2012 election, President Obama’s electoral vote margin of victory would have shrunk [PDF] from 322-206 to 270-268. Under two other proposed reforms --- in which the overall statewide winner would not automatically receive two electoral votes --- Romney would have been elected president, despite losing the popular vote by 4 percent (nearly 5 million votes).
"If you did the calculation, you’d see a massive shift of electoral votes in states that are blue and fully [in] red control," a senior Republican who is actively involved in pushing the electoral split scheme told Wilson. "There’s no kind of autopsy and outreach that can grab us those electoral votes that quickly."
So there you have it: instead of examining why voters overwhelmingly rejected their party in 2012 and adjusting their policies accordingly, some Republicans hope to simply steal the next one, and do it quickly. For voting rights advocates who warned that democracy was being threatened in 2012, there will be no rest for the weary.