WASHINGTON -- One of Michigan's top Republican lawmakers is interested in a proposal to change the way the state allocates its electoral college votes, in a way that would have handed Michigan to Mitt Romney in the 2012 presidential election despite the fact that he received a minority of the popular vote.
Currently, nearly every state awards their electoral college votes to the presidential candidate who captures a majority of the votes in the entire state. Only Maine and Nebraska award an electoral vote to the winner of each congressional district, with another two votes going to the person who gets the most votes statewide.
But Republicans in some swing states want to be more like Maine and Nebraska.
President Barack Obama won swing states like Virginia, Michigan, Wisconsin, Florida, Pennsylvania and Ohio in the 2012 election. But through heavy redistricting and gerrymandering, the GOP-controlled legislatures in those states have ensured that most congressional districts are heavily Republican. So if the GOP plan to award votes based on congressional districts had been in effect, Obama could have been chosen by the majority of the states' residents but lost the election anyway.
Michigan House Speaker Jase Bolger (R) said on Friday that he's open to pursuing the strategy in his state. According to Gongwer (subscription required), Bolger believes a bill by state Rep. Pete Lund (R) -- which has yet to be introduced -- is worthy of strong consideration.
"I hear that more and more from our citizens in various parts of the state of Michigan that they don't feel like their vote for president counts because another area of the state may dominate that or could sway their vote," Bolger told Gongwer. "They feel closer to voting for their congressman or their congresswoman and if that vote coincided with their vote for president they would feel better about that."
U.S. Rep. Gary Peters (D-Mich.), however, said the scheme would do nothing but "rig" the next presidential election.
“Let me be clear, this proposal is designed specifically to dilute the influence of minority and urban voters and nullify their voice in the next Presidential election," Peters said in a statement. "Instead of focusing their efforts on ways to rig elections to win with a gerrymandered minority, Republicans should spend their time working to earn a majority of voters."
Lund seemed to acknowledge that there are political motivations behind this push to change the rules. In an interview with the Detroit News, he said he was planning to introduce his bill and admitted that some Republicans were reluctant to support it in the past because it could have hurt Romney.
"It got no traction last year," he said. "There were people convinced Romney was going to win and this might take (electoral) votes from him."
The debate over the strategy heated up in recent days, when Republicans in Virginia's legislature advanced a bill in the state Senate to change the rules of the electoral college, taking advantage of the temporary majority created when a Democratic senator left town to attend Obama's inauguration.
At least two Virginia Republican lawmakers have spoken out against what their colleagues are doing. Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford (R) has also said he is against changing the electoral college rules in his state.
The plan in Virginia appears dead for now, as Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) said on Friday that he opposes it.