Michigan legislators discuss proposal to modify Electoral College

Michigan governor Rick Snyder speaks before the introduction of the candidates during the GOP Debate in which eight Republican presidential candidates spoke at Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan, on Wednesday, November 9, 2011. (Jarrad Henderson/Detroit Free Press/MCT)

Michigan legislators are considering proposing a bill that would change how the state allocates its Electoral College votes during a presidential election.

The bill would award electoral votes proportionally, and candidates would  receive an electoral vote for managing to win the popular vote within one of Michigan's 14 congressional districts. Furthermore, the winner of the statewide popular vote would receive two additional electors.

Michigan House Speaker Jase Bolger, R-Marshall, said the bill is worth consideration in an interview with Gongwer.

“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 said. “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.”

Passing such a bill would have drastic electoral implications. Had it been implemented before the previous presidential election, Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney would have received nine of the state’s 16 electoral votes despite losing the popular vote to President Barack Obama 52.7 percent to 47.3 percent.

Obama tended to do well both nationally and in Michigan in more densely populated urban areas, while Romney fared better in more rural areas.

In addition, if similar bills were passed in every state’s legislature, Romney would have actually won the election with 277 electoral votes compared to Obama’s 261, according to the New York Times. Obama won the election with 51 percent of the popular vote and 332 electoral votes.

The controversial proposal has its share of critics, including U.S. Rep. Gary Peters, D-Bloomfield Township, a former Central Michigan University Griffin Endowed Chair in American Government.

“Gov. Snyder, Speaker Bolger and the national Republicans want to rig the next presidential election, because they can’t win otherwise,” Peters said in a statement. “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.”

Currently, Maine and Nebraska are the two states that award their electoral votes proportionally and have been doing so for decades. However, only once has a congressional district from either state contrasted with its eventual popular vote winner, when Obama won one district in the otherwise red Nebraska in 2008.

Pennsylvania, Ohio, Virginia and Wisconsin are states, in addition to Michigan, that are presently considering similar electoral proposals.


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