The Washington Post

The GOP’s electoral vote gambit: Reasonably popular, but doomed

Many Americans support the way that Republicans want to adjust how some states award their electoral votes.

But that doesn't mean there's going to be any new life breathed into the dying effort.

A new poll from Quinnipiac University shows that neither awarding electoral votes on a winner-take-all basis to the winner of the statewide vote nor awarding them by congressional district gains majority support. Forty-six percent prefer the winner-take-all method, while 41 percent prefer to do it by congressional district, as Republicans in some key states are proposing. The rest are unsure.

But that probably says more about people's openness to Electoral College reform than it does about how much they like the GOP's proposal.

The problem with the GOP's effort is that it is/was a pretty transparent political ploy, in which a majority of the electoral votes in blue-leaning states like Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin could wind up going to the Republican nominee even if he or she lost the statewide vote.

Had Republicans instead proposed doing such a thing in every state (which also would almost definitely help them, given a significant majority of congressional districts lean red) rather than focusing on the few where it is advantageous to them, it might have looked like a real reform. Instead, it was a pretty transparent effort to help them win elections.

Interestingly, the poll shows a significant partisan split on the issue, with Democrats preferring the winner-take-all method by 24 points and Republicans preferring the district method by 27 points. That suggests the partisan nature of the effort has registered with at least some voters.

But the fact is that most voters probably have no idea about the effort, and if Republicans pushed it further, it wouldn't be hard for Democrats to make the argument, as they have in some of these states, that Republicans were trying to game the system.

Which is a big reason why the idea has wilted on the vine in states like Virginia, Michigan and Pennsylvania.

Aaron Blake covers national politics and writes regularly for The Fix.



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