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January 27, 2013

“If you can’t win by playing fair, cheat!”

http://www.jewishjournal.com/blog/item/if_you_cant_win_by_playing_fair_cheat/

So writes Charles Blow of the Republican Party on the Op-Ed pages of The New York Times (January 25, 2013).

In key toss-up states controlled by Republican legislatures in the most recent presidential contest, the Republican Party had attempted to skew the vote towards Governor Romney by rigging the system so as to reduce the number of Democrats who would be able to vote. The GOP used a number of strategies including reducing the number of voting places and voting machines in Democratic districts, eliminating the weekend for voting before the election, and shortening the number of hours the polling places would be open that would adversely affect areas populated by minorities, seniors and the poor who tend to vote Democratic. The Republicans had also attempted to require photo identification in order to vote which puts the poor and elderly at a disadvantage, most of whom, of course, tend to vote for Democrats.

Despite this blatant assault on the most basic of democratic freedoms (i.e. the right to vote in free elections), voters in those targeted districts defiantly either voted early by mail or stood for hours in rain and cold to vote. Such long lines, of course, did not exist in districts where Republicans were in the majority.

After trying to unsuccessfully suppress the Democratic vote in 2012, the Republicans have devised a new strategy to win future presidential elections. Though both the Democratic and Republican parties have gerrymandered their state districts to give their respective party advantages, the 2010 gerrymander effort by Republicans has effectively enabled them to retain their majority in the House of Representatives despite the fact that Democrats nationally won more than one million more votes than their Republican colleagues.

Now the Republicans (as described by Charles Blow) are trying something new, to rig the election by changing the way states allocate electoral votes in presidential elections.

Currently, states are winner-take-all for the Electoral College, meaning that the candidate who wins a state’s popular vote receives all that state’s electoral votes. The Republicans want to change the system and award electoral votes proportionally by congressional district regardless of who wins the most votes state-wide. On its face, this does not seem unreasonable until one looks at the numbers and connects the dots. This system would favor less populated rural areas that vote Republican over more populated urban areas that vote Democratic by giving them equal weight. Had this system been in effect in 2012, Governor Mitt Romney would have won the presidency despite losing by millions of votes nationally to President Barack Obama. 

The only comfort I take from these underhanded undemocratic shenanigans is that they are a reflection of desperation within the GOP that is struggling to stay competitive in a country in which demographics have changed against Republicans and that Republican ideas and approaches to government are no longer held in the majority.

If the Republicans are defeated in these vote-rigging efforts I suspect that the GOP as currently constituted will die from its own self-inflicted wounds. In its place I would hope that there would emerge a new kind of Republican Party that is more moderate, more pragmatic, more inclusive, more compromising, and more democratic.

The United States works best with a viable two-party system that can meet often on common ground and arrive at a workable national consensus on policy while checking the excesses of the other. We certainly do not need one party like the current Republican Party that thinks nothing of cheating the public and undermining our democratic system.

See Charles Blow’s column here.

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