The Republican war on voting is not just a war on individual voting rights (though that is a significant front to be sure), but it is also a war on the process of ensuring representation that the federal level reflects the structural compromises necessary to actually govern. At the federal level we see this in the bizarre campaign to repeal the 17th Amendment, embraced by GOP Presidential front-runner Rick Perry, for example.
At the state level, a new strategy has emerged thanks to Republicans in Pennsylvania. There the GOP leadership is proposing an end to the winner-take-all system of apportioning the state’s electoral votes and replacing it with one that would do so by congressional district.
That may not sound like such a controversial idea, until you place it in the context of the overall redistricting battle taking place across the country. One impact of the November 2010 elections ushering in a hard-right conservative class is a concerted effort to gerrymander congressional districts into permanent Republican majorities. With those new districts set, it stands to reason that as those congressional districts remain permanently Republican, so too would the electoral college votes.
So it is no surprise then that this kind of proposal surfaces in a politically purple state during a redistricting year. In 2012, after redistricting, Pennsylvania will have 20 electoral votes and 18 congressional districts. Under the Republican proposal each of the districts would elect one presidential elector; the other two would be apportioned on the basis of the popular vote.
Now, if this was a change adopted by every state at the same time and divorced from the gerrymandering currently afoot, then it could be an interesting springboard to re-evaluate how the electoral college functions in our modern elections. But it’s not, which is our first clue as to what is really driving this purported “reform.”
Photo from hjl via flickr.