January 28, 2013

The Republican attempt to change the way electoral votes are apportioned in several states won by President Obama in November [“GOP is pushing electoral changes,” front page, Jan. 25] is part of a multipronged effort to undermine fair contests at the ballot box. So far the Republican Party has employed laws to disenfranchise urban voters who lack driver’s licenses and aggressive gerrymandering that has given it a lock on state legislatures and produced GOP-dominated congressional delegations in states with Democratic voting majorities. In fact, such gerrymandering is the only reason Republicans continue to control the House of Representatives.

Now Republicans are shedding crocodile tears for supposedly disadvantaged rural voters as a reason for trying to changing the electoral college. If Republicans were truly concerned about voter disenfranchisement, they would join in efforts to abolish the electoral college and base presidential elections on the popular vote.

Stuart Endick, Burke

A new spirit today is if you lose the game, don’t practice for next time; change the rules. Apparently, Republicans in several states want to divvy up electoral votes by congressional district, taking advantage of blatant but skilled Republican gerrymandering. One Republican from rural Virginia says this will keep his constituents from being outvoted by more populous suburban and urban areas. But isn’t part of democracy sometimes being outvoted?

Inconveniently, the majority of voters voted for the Democrat in the last two presidential elections. Maybe if the Republicans offered stronger candidates and better ideas, they might do better in presidential elections.

Bruce Brager, New York

Benjamin Franklin famously replied to the question of what kind of government had been created by the Constitutional Convention by saying, “A republic, if you can keep it.” Republican Party proposals to tie electoral college votes to the results in already-gerrymandered congressional districts would, if enacted, create a dangerous crisis of legitimacy that could cause us to lose that republic.

The result in the 2000 presidential election placed the legitimacy of the electoral college system on the edge of a cliff, since Al Gore lost after winning the popular vote by more than half a million votes. In 2012, under the Republican proposals, Mitt Romney would have been elected president even though President Obama won the popular vote by nearly 3.5 million votes. That would have pushed the legitimacy of the electoral college over that cliff.

A republican form of government cannot survive if it does not have popular legitimacy.

David S. Fishback, Olney

I certainly agree that the electoral college system is no way to elect a president, but allocating electoral college votes in the ways advocated by some red-state legislatures would be a step in the wrong direction. Any scheme that strategically favored a particular political party should not be used. The only fair way to elect the president would be by popular vote.

To get around having to enact this change by constitutional amendment, some states have passed laws granting their electoral college votes to the candidate who wins the national popular vote — with the stipulation that the practice will not go into effect until similar legislation is passed by states whose total electoral college votes add up to 270. This would be equivalent to election by popular vote. It should be embraced by all states.

Jay Herson, Chevy Chase