Tuesday, December 10, 2013
WASHINGTON – Political leaders in several states have decided that Maine and Nebraska’s unique way of counting Electoral College votes isn’t worth copying – at least for now.
Ever since the November elections, Republicans in some states won by President Obama have been advocating potentially switching from a winner-take-all Electoral College system to one in which electors are awarded by majority vote in each congressional district.
Maine and Nebraska are the only two states where Electoral College votes can be awarded to more than one presidential candidate, although it’s never happened in 40 years in Maine.
But the implications of such a vote-splitting system could be much more profound in battleground states such as Ohio, Michigan and Virginia. Those states sided with Obama in 2008 and 2012 thanks to the Democrat’s strong support in more urban areas despite Republican leanings in the rural areas.
Interest in following Maine and Nebraska’s lead appears to be waning, however.
This past week, a Virginia Senate committee voted to kill a vote-splitting bill while Republican elected leaders in Ohio, Wisconsin and Michigan have all indicated that they did not intend to pursue the change, according to news reports.
Although non-controversial in Maine, the idea of splitting up a state's electoral votes has sparked heated debate elsewhere.
Critics have labeled it as "electoral gerrymandering" and accused Republicans of trying to change the rules after being unable to win a state outright. Supporters, meanwhile, correctly point out that the Constitution allows states to choose how to apportion Electoral College votes.
Using Virginia as an example . . . had that state employed Maine's system in 2012, Obama would have won 4 electors but Mitt Romney would have captured nine. Instead, Obama walked away with all 13 votes because he won the popular vote.
Similar legislative proposals are still pending in several states, including Pennsylvania and Washington.
Kevin Miller is Washington bureau chief for the Portland Press Herald and MaineToday Media. He has worked as a journalist in Maine for 6 ½ years, covering the environment, politics and the State House. Before arriving in Maine, he wrote about politics, government and education for newspapers in Virginia and Maryland.
Kevin can be reached at 317-6256 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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