Maintaining a permanent Republican majority the easy way
Yesterday, delegates to the Michigan Electoral College cast Michigan’s 16 votes for Barack Obama. The President won Michigan handily, beating Mitt Romney by nearly 10 points. However, Republicans still maintain control over our state legislature and hour Congressional caucus. How is this possible?
Every ten years after the national census, Congressional districts and state legislative districts are redrawn, ostensibly to create more a more fair reflection of the voting populace in a given state. More often than not, both parties play a role in this process and, if they feel something is unfair, they can challenge it in court. However, with Michigan solidly in the hands of Republicans in after the 2010 midterm election, Democrats played absolutely no role in the redistricting process and, when they challenged what the Republicans did in court, the Republican-friendly state Supreme Court ruled for the Republicans.
The result was to create oddly drawn districts that cram as many Democrats as possible into a few districts and make other districts much more competitive for Republicans. We will now live with this for the next eight years.
That is why this happened:
[Chart via The Maddow Blog]
Despite having gotten 52.7% of the votes cast in for state House seats in the 2012 election in November, Democrats still only have 5 of the 14 seats in the U.S. Congress. And they are also still in the minority in the state House of Representatives and the state Senate. This outrageous impact of gerrymandering isn’t confined to Michigan either. As Will Femia’s piece at The Maddow Blog and another, equally important piece at Mother Jones show, there are other states reeling from the criminal level of gerrymandering that took place in 2010.
Well, as you might imagine, Republicans are going to let this artificial majority go unexploited. They are now working to change how several states including award their electoral votes in presidential elections:
Republicans alarmed at the apparent challenges they face in winning the White House are preparing an all-out assault on the Electoral College system in critical states, an initiative that would significantly ease the party’s path to the Oval Office.
Senior Republicans say they will try to leverage their party’s majorities in Democratic-leaning states in an effort to end the winner-take-all system of awarding electoral votes. Instead, bills that will be introduced in several Democratic states would award electoral votes on a proportional basis.
Already, two states — Maine and Nebraska — award an electoral vote to the winner of each congressional district. The candidate who wins the most votes statewide takes the final two at-large electoral votes. Only once, when President Obama won a congressional district based in Omaha in 2008, has either of those states actually split their vote.
But if more reliably blue states like Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin were to award their electoral votes proportionally, Republicans would be able to eat into what has become a deep Democratic advantage.
All three states have given the Democratic nominee their electoral votes in each of the last six presidential elections. Now, senior Republicans in Washington are overseeing legislation in all three states to end the winner-take-all system.
In Michigan, that means that President Obama would have gotten only 7 of Michigan’s 16 electoral votes despite having won the popular vote by 9.5%. It gives an artificial advantage to Republican-leaning districts and minimizes the impact of more Democratic districts.
Michigan Democrats are, of course, outraged by this attempt. State Representative Brandon Dillon, who made a fiery speech during the battle to defeat the Right to Work for Less drive by Republicans that got national attention, is leading the charge. In a statement, he said:
The system of electing a president set forth in the Constitution has worked successfully for more than 200 years. Republicans know they can’t win fairly at the ballot box, so they’ll rig the game to gain every advantage possible. Wealthy corporate donors have poured millions into electing extreme state legislators, and we see now those legislators are more than happy to act like marionettes on a string — Pinocchios to their corporate Gepettos — even if it’s a slap in the face to the democratic process.
They don’t want some voters to have a full say in who becomes president because they are afraid of the voters. Massive amounts of conservative fundraising couldn’t buy the votes Michiganders, so the big-money donors are using state lawmakers to rewrite the rules in order to win.
What can Democrats do about it? Not much. The only way to stop this anti-democratic move by Republicans is to peel off some more reasonable, sensible, ethical Republicans from their more ideologically-driven colleagues who clearly have little regard for the will of the voters and are focused exclusively on maintaining the power they have and expanding it in the future.
We’ll stay on top of this story at Eclectablog. It may be one of the most important issues Democrats in Michigan (and elsewhere) deal with in 2013.