Republicans push to change Electoral College in swing states

The changes would give Republicans an advantage in key states that went for Obama in 2012

By Jillian Rayfield
January 25, 2013 7:15PM (UTC)
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In an effort to cut into the Democrats' ability to win votes in battleground states in the next election, Republicans are pushing state legislatures to adopt changes to the Electoral College that would give them a clear advantage.

From the Washington Post:


In the vast majority of states, the presidential candidate who wins receives all of that state’s electoral votes. The proposed changes would instead apportion electoral votes by congressional district, a setup far more favorable to Republicans. Under such a system in Virginia, for instance, President Obama would have claimed four of the state’s 13 electoral votes in the 2012 election, rather than all of them.

Other states considering similar changes include Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania, which share a common dynamic with Virginia: They went for Obama in the past two elections but are controlled by Republicans at the state level.

Nebraska and Maine have already passed laws like these; Virginia's House of Delegates passed a version of the bill on Wednesday, and its state Senate could vote on the plan next week.

As Jamelle Bouie of the American Prospect points out, the changes in Virginia would have an overwhelming effect on minority voters in those states, because it would give more weight to rural voters who are predominantly white:

Because Democratic voters tend to cluster in highly-populated urban areas, and Republican voters tend to reside in more sparsely populated regions, this makes land the key variable in elections—to win the majority of a state’s electoral votes, your voters will have to occupy the most geographic space.

According to an analysis by the Huffington Post, had all 50 states used the Republican plan, Mitt Romney would have led President Obama by 11 electoral votes.


One state where Republicans may have some trouble is Florida. Though the state certainly had success pushing voter ID laws (and saw epically long lines that turned away an estimated 200,000 voters statewide, the Orando Sentinel reports, more than half of whom would have likely voted for Obama), House Speaker Will Weatherford, a Republican, decried the plan: "To me, that's like saying in a football game, 'We should have only three quarters, because we were winning after three quarters and they beat us in the fourth," he told the Tampa Bay Times. "I don't think we need to change the rules of the game, I think we need to get better."

RNC Chairman Reince Priebus recently said he supports the idea, telling the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: "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."

Jillian Rayfield

Jillian Rayfield is an Assistant News Editor for Salon, focusing on politics. Follow her on Twitter at @jillrayfield or email her at

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2012 Elections Barack Obama Electoral College Swing States Voting