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The GOP’s Electoral College Scheme

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English: Electoral college map for the 2012, 2...

English: Electoral college map for the 2012, 2016 and 2020 United States presidential elections, using apportionment data released by the US Census Bureau. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

By Reid Wilson | National Journal

 

Republicans alarmed at the apparent challenges they face in winning the White House are preparing an all-out assault on the Electoral College system in critical states, an initiative that would significantly ease the party’s path to the Oval Office.

Senior Republicans say they will try to leverage their party’s majorities in Democratic-leaning states in an effort to end the winner-take-all system of awarding electoral votes. Instead, bills that will be introduced in several Democratic states would award electoral votes on a proportional basis.

Already, two states — Maine and Nebraska — award an electoral vote to the winner of each congressional district. The candidate who wins the most votes statewide takes the final two at-large electoral votes. Only once, when President Obama won a congressional district based in Omaha in 2008, has either of those states actually split their vote.

But if more reliably blue states like Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin were to award their electoral votes proportionally, Republicans would be able to eat into what has become a deep Democratic advantage.

All three states have given the Democratic nominee their electoral votes in each of the last six presidential elections. Now, senior Republicans in Washington are overseeing legislation in all three states to end the winner-take-all system.

Obama won all three states in 2008, handing him 46 electoral votes because of the winner-take-all system. Had electoral votes been awarded by district, Republican nominee Mitt Romney would have cut into that lead. Final election results show that Romney won nine of Michigan’s 14 districts, five of eight in Wisconsin, and at least 12 of 18 in Pennsylvania. Allocate the two statewide votes in each state to Obama and that means Romney would have emerged from those three Democratic states with 26 electoral votes, compared with just 19 for Obama (and one district where votes are still being counted).

Republicans are able to contemplate such a bold plan because of their electoral success in 2010, when the party won control of state legislative chambers and the governorships in all three states, giving them total control over the levers of state government.

“If you did the calculation, you’d see a massive shift of electoral votes in states that are blue and fully [in] red control,” said one senior Republican taking an active role in pushing the proposal. “There’s no kind of autopsy and outreach that can grab us those electoral votes that quickly.”

The proposals, the senior GOP official said, are likely to come up in each state’s legislative session in 2013. Bills have been drafted, and legislators are talking to party bosses to craft strategy. Saul Anuzis, the former chairman of the Michigan Republican Party, has briefed Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus and Chief of Staff Jeff Larson on his state’s proposal. The proposal “is not being met with the ‘We can’t do that’ answer. It’s being met with ‘I’ve already got a bill started,’ ” the official said.

Republican state legislators are motivated to act after Romney’s loss. And the party lost legislative seats in all three states, adding urgency to pass the measures before voters head to the polls in 2014.

Tweaks of electoral-vote rules are hardly unprecedented, according to Michael McDonald, a political scientist at George Mason University. State legislatures routinely changed Electoral College allocation rules in the early years of the Republic; the political fallout then can inform present-day lawmakers considering the changes.

“State legislative elections became tantamount to the presidential election in a state. Local issues were put aside for presidential politics,” McDonald said. “These states legislators thus risk the nationalization of their state politics, to the detriment of their personal careers. State legislators learned that once they fixed the Electoral College rules, national politics no longer dominated state elections.”

In the long run, Republican operatives say they would like to pursue similar Electoral College reform in Florida, Ohio, and Virginia. Obama won all three states, but Romney won a majority of the congressional districts in each state.

Any changes to the allocation of Electoral College votes would have a major impact on each party’s path to the White House. Eighteen states and the District of Columbia have given Democrats their collective 246 electoral votes in each of the last six elections. That virtually forces Republicans to run the swing-state table.

But rewriting the rules would dramatically shrink or eliminate the Democratic advantage, because of the way House districts are drawn. The decennial redistricting process has dumped huge percentages of Democratic voters into some urban districts, while Republican voters are spread over a wider number of districts, giving the party an advantage. This year, Democratic House candidates won more than 1 million more votes than Republican candidates, but Republicans won 33 more seats.

And if Republicans go ahead with their plan, Democrats don’t have the option of pushing back. After the 2010 wave, Democrats control all levers of government in only one state — West Virginia — that Romney won this year. Some consistently blue presidential states have Republican legislatures; the reverse is not true.

Some Republicans acknowledge that the party would open itself up to charges of political opportunism, but that they would frame the proposal as a chance to make the system more fair.

“With the frustration of the current system—and the fact that almost everyone would agree proportional or CD is more representative and maybe more fair than the current winner-take-all—Republicans have a strong, righteous argument,” Anuzis said. “However, the motivation would be viewed as being purely political since it hasn’t been done before.”

 

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The so-called birther movement ?

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Official photographic portrait of US President...

Birther Movement (Obama Birth Certificate)

Jacquelyn Martin/Associated Press

Updated: Aug. 24, 2012

The so-called birther movement began during the 2008 campaign when some of Barack Obama’s critics claimed, without offering proof, that he was born in Kenya, like his father, Barack Obama Sr. The Constitution states that no one born in another country is eligible to become president.

The charge has become a potent rallying point among Tea Party supporters, was a factor in the early stages of the race for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination and has led to legislation being introduced in a number of states to require candidates to certify their eligibility for office. Democrats have often responded with derision, and have criticized Republican leaders for failing to speak out against a conspiracy theory the president’s supporters see as being meant to undermine the legitimacy of Mr. Obama’s election.

The elder Mr. Obama was an exchange student at the University of Hawaii when he met and married Mr. Obama’s mother, Stanley Ann Dunham. The Obama campaign ultimately responded by releasing a “certification of live birth,” an official document from the Hawaii Department of Health, and posting it online on the White House Web site.

On April 27, 2011, President Obama posted a “long form’’ birth certificate from the state of Hawaii online at the White House Web site. It shows conclusively that Mr. Obama was born in Honolulu and is signed by state officials and his mother. In Hawaii, the “long form’’ certificates are not made public, and “certifications of live birth” are issued instead. The White House said that Mr. Obama had authorized Hawaii to release the long-form document broadly.

Mr. Obama acted in the face of poll results showing that almost half of Republican voters believed he had been born in another country and that almost a quarter said they did not know where he was born. Donald Trump, the real-estate mogul, had briefly surged in polls of Republican voters after he made questions about Mr. Obama’s birth a centerpiece of his public appearances.

The issue entered the presidential race again in August 2012, when Mitt Romney, then the presumptive Republican nominee, seemed to make a joke about President Obama’s birth certificate while speaking to voters in his home state of Michigan.

“Now I love being home in this place where Ann and I were raised, where both of us were born,” Mr. Romney said, standing alongside his wife, Ann, and his running mate, Representative Paul D. Ryan. “Ann was born in Henry Ford Hospital. I was born in Harper Hospital. No one’s ever asked to see my birth certificate. They know that this is the place that we were born and raised.”

The Romney campaign quickly scrambled to walk back his comments, saying he was simply sharing his Michigan pride. “The governor has always said, and has repeatedly said, he believes the president was born here in the United States,” said Kevin Madden, an adviser to Mr. Romney, who served as governor of Massachusetts.

During the 2008 campaign, two fact-checking groups, FactCheck.org and PolitiFact, had concluded the certificiation of live birth was authentic. A reporter for The Honolulu Advertiser also found two separate newspaper announcements of the president’s birth, one in The Advertiser on Aug. 13, 1961, and another in The Honolulu Star-Bulletin the next day. Both carried the words “Mr. and Mrs. Barack H. Obama, 6085 Kalanianaole Highway, son, Aug. 4.”

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Still, the questions persisted. The certificate number is blacked out on the Internet copy, and Mr. Obama’s detractors demanded the release of his original long-form birth certificate, which in Hawaii is not considered a public record. The state was so besieged by inquiries that the governor, Linda Lingle, a Republican, signed a law allowing officials to ignore the queries as nuisances.

“I certainly hope by the fourth year of our administration that we’ll have dealt with this burgeoning birth controversy,” the White House press secretary, Robert Gibbs, told reporters in 2009. The fact-checkers at PolitiFact sounded similarly frustrated in a 2009 post: they thought they had put the matter to rest. “Oh, how naïve we were,” the post’s writer, Robert Farley, said.

But the issue remained potent among conservative voters. In April 2011, a New York Times-CBS News poll found that a plurality of Republican voters, 47 percent, said they believed Mr. Obama was born in another country; 22 percent said they did not know where he was born, and 32 percent said they believed he was born in the United States.

Among all voters, the same poll found that 57 percent of adults surveyed nationwide said Mr. Obama was born in the United States, versus 25 percent who said he was born in another country.

The issue helped give a boost to the potential presidential bid of Mr. Trump, who spoke often of his “real doubts” about whether Mr. Obama was born in this country and sent investigators to Hawaii to research the issue. An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll showed Mr. Trump as the most favored candidate among Republicans who consider themselves Tea Party supporters.

On the other hand, several prominent conservatives, including Glenn Beck and Bill O’Reilly, have criticized Mr. Trump for raising questions about it.

Michelle Bachmann, another potential presidential candidate, told Fox News in mid-April that the president could clear up the matter by showing his birth certificate. In an interview with Sean Hannity, she said: “Let’s solve this and get it over with.”

One day later, Ms. Bachmann deemed herself satisfied when George Stephanopoulos of ABC News produced the certification of live birth, which is complete with a registration number, a signature from the registrar and a seal from the state of Hawaii. “Well then,” Ms. Bachmann said, “that should settle it.”

So-called birther bills have foundered or fallen dormant in at least five states and are still being debated in more than a half-dozen others. In Arizona, where both legislative chambers passed one such bill, Gov. Jan Brewer, a Republican, vetoed it, calling it “a bridge too far.”

Oklahoma, a deeply conservative state, could be the first to put its doubts into law, through a bill that would require all candidates, from Town Council hopeful on up, to provide certified proof that they meet the legal requirements for office.

Supporters of the measure, and others like it from Georgia to Montana, protest that they are not “birthers,” as doubters of Mr. Obama’s natal provenance have been dubbed, sometimes derisively. They say that they simply want to clarify the status of all candidates and that Mr. Obama’s case has only sharpened the issue and illuminated what they call a glaring hole in the statutes.

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