I think we all remember the time from our childhood playing games with that one kid who changes the rules in games. You’d be playing 4 man baseball and while your ghost runners could only take one base at a time, all of the sudden -when it suited him the most- he’d say his ghost runner was able to score from 2nd on a single. Or that game of tag would suddenly become freeze tag because he didn’t want to be “it” when you tagged him. That’s not unlike what’s going on right now with voting rules across multiple states.

A little pertinent history lesson: Right now with the US Electoral College system, the individual citizen doesn’t truly, technically, vote for the president. When you vote, you are, more or less, telling your state’s electors who you want to vote for president, and they in turn cast the actual votes that are given.  Since 1964 the United States has had 538 electors, with 270 of them being required to win the presidency (giving a winner with exactly 270 votes a 50.2% share of the vote). The theory is that in a Republic where states’ power is important, even a small population state can have an important outcome.

Currently, in 48 states, any presidential candidate winning the largest share of the votes simply gets all of that states electoral votes – a “winner take all” system. The 2 remaining states – Nebraska and Maine – essentially go by congressional district to determine who gets the individual elector’s votes with the remaining 2 elector votes in each state being decided by the overall popular vote of the state. It’s actually a fairly convoluted system that needs multiple constitutional amendments and stacks of state laws to function “correctly.” It’s not exactly a popular system, either, in both 2001 and 2004 the majority of Americans in a Gallup poll supported eliminating the electoral college system and going with a pure popular vote system.

Ok, got all that? If you find it interesting at all, there are many, many books and articles on it. As I said, only 2 states don’t use the winner-take-all system where the winner of that state’s popular vote gets all the electoral votes. In fact, not using that system is actually a fairly recent change. Maine moved away from it in 1972, and Nebraska in 1992 (gee, both election years. How strange). I’m not here to argue about which method is better, merely to point out that continuity in rules is fair. I personally think either all states should use the same method.

After the last presidential election, surely our most partisan and bitter election, Republicans in Pennsylvania decided that they didn’t really like ALL of their state’s 21 electors voting for who won the popular vote. Barack Obama won 54% of the popular vote yet he got every last one of those 21 electoral votes. The GOP there realized that by moving away from an all-or-nothing system when most states were not moving away from that system they are essentially giving votes to any Republican candidate. Pennsylvania would join Nebraska and Maine, making it 47 states that used one system and 3 states that used another.

But wait! Nebraska actually saw a vote for Obama in 2008. That’s rather astonishing for such a right-leaning state; Nebraska has only voted Democrat in 7 of the last 36 elections. But Republicans there are very aware that in such a partisan atmosphere every last vote counts, especially when there are only 538 votes. They’re actually looking to reverse their 1992 decision to leave the winner-take-all system. They want back in to get their one vote back.  Hmmm, put in the simplest of terms this really seems like the people in power are changing the rules to make it easier for their side to win. Imagine if where you worked suddenly everyone had to start paying for their own electricity used, but your boss turned around and said that since he’s in charge, he only has to pay 50%. You’d be pretty ticked off, huh?

The election tinkering actually doesn’t stop there. 14 states are looking at changing voting rules, ranging from cutting the time allowed for early voting, to requiring state-issued ID cards, to enacting laws that forbid anyone with a criminal history to vote – people who have justly served their time and are once again tax paying citizens. As a general rule, early voting has favored democrats. In fact, on election day in 2008, my current home state of North Carolina actually voted in majority for John McCain, but so many people used early voting to vote for Barack Obama that he won the election here – the first time in decades that North Carolina went blue. This isn’t a trend isolated to this state either. Demographic data shows that in almost every single state early voting came out for Obama, often with a wide margin.

In addition, early voting featured a much larger percentage of minorities than the overall voting population as a whole, and it is widely known that on average minorities vote Democrat. While I’m in favor of eliminating voting fraud – the usual excuse of those looking to implement state-issued voter IDs – fraudulent voting by individuals is less than .0001% of all voters.

To put that in practical terms, voting fraud is quite literally a one-in-a-million thing. Any given district is more likely to experience a mass shooting spree than have people try to cheat the voting system. It has been reported by multiple news organizations (almost any of the links above) that these new voting changes will disenfranchise 5 million voters. But hey, it’s worth it if we screw the 4,999,995 people voting to get those 5 cheaters, right? Well, that’s what the Republicans will probably try to sell you to your face, while in reality it’s done in the name of reducing the chances of Democrats winning. 

It’s ironic that a nation so bent on shedding light in other countries’ fair elections is so shady under its own surface. Remember that kid who would use the Monopoly board game house rule of getting money for landing on free parking when he landed on it, but then point out that’s just a house rule and say you got nothing when you landed on it? Yeah. That’s your modern Republicans.

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Zarberg is a member of The Political Observers, a sub-group of our writers who are devoted to topics that are political in nature. Zarberg provides a liberal viewpoint in his articles.

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