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· January 25, 2013

National Election Trend Coming to Ohio?

Currently, if a presidential candidate wins a state’s popular vote the winner also receives all of the state’s Electoral College votes.  The only exceptions to this rule are Nebraska and Maine. However, after losing two presidential elections in a row, Republican lawmakers across the nation are attempting to change this in their respective states. In several Republican-controlled legislatures in states that supported President Barack Obama there are legislative initiatives to award their state’s Electoral College votes based on congressional district.  This plan takes advantage of the fact that the GOP has successfully gerrymandered districts in key blue states. A recent analysis by the Center for American Progress shows that had this election rigging plan been in place in 2012, Mitt Romney would be in the White House, despite Obama capturing the popular vote. Ohio is ripe for this type of effort. Republicans control the governor’s office and both houses of the Ohio General Assembly. Due to this control – and the way Ohio reapportions state and federal legislative districts every ten years – for the second decade in a row Ohio’s General Assembly and congressional districts have been drawn along hyper-partisan lines. While Ohioans voted to elect Obama in the last election and statewide voting totals for Democratic candidates exceeded GOP totals, Ohio’s congressional seats are split roughly 75/25 in favor of the GOP and statehouse seats are no better. The idea to change Electoral College rules in the states is gaining momentum. Earlier this month Reince Priebus, Chairman of the RNC, voiced support.  Legislation to divide electoral votes has been introduced in Michigan and Virginia.  In Virginia this legislation has been voted out of committee. Pennsylvania Senate Republican Leader Pileggi has renewed efforts to pass such legislation in his state. Governor Scott Walker in Wisconsin has said it is an “interesting idea.” This fall, shortly after the election, Secretary of State Jon Husted suggested that he supports the idea of splitting the Electoral College votes in Ohio.  Will John Husted bring this alarming national trend to Ohio? Husted said:
“You’re never going to fix the elections process in Ohio as long as we are the most important swing state in the country…. The way that you could minimize that is that you could fix redistricting so that we had fair Congressional districts and then you could apportion all of our electoral votes according to Congressional district so that it wouldn’t be a winner take all state. And if you did that you would take the importance of Ohio out of this and all of those elections problems would go away”
While he later backtracked and said this was just a comment, not a proposal, it may just be a matter of time before similar legislation finds its way to Ohio. As for fair congressional districts in Ohio, we know what the GOP really thinks of that idea. In the lame duck session of the last General Assembly there was a brief bipartisan effort to work on a more fair way to redistrict after every decennial census. There were two major roadblocks: House Speaker Bill Batchelder (a Republican) and general Republican refusal to consider any bill that would take effect before the next U.S. Census – in 2020.

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