As things stand now, the Electoral College favors Democrats because they are all but guaranteed to win a small number of large winner take all states, such as California, New York, Illinois, Michigan, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, plus a coalition of hopelessly blue states.
Democrats start off close to victory because of winner-take-all voting in those states, even if they win those states by a small margin in each state.
The system currently is “rigged” to favor Democrats, if you want to look at it that way.
So Republicans in some states have come up with a perfectly constitutional alternative which already is used in Maine and Nebraska, awarding electoral college votes by congressional district. This would help Republicans in several states. It’s perfectly constitutional because states get to decide how to award electoral votes.
The possibility that this may help Republicans has Larry Sabato screaming Stop Thief:
As we suspected, it would permit a GOP nominee to capture the White House even while losing the popular vote by many millions. This is not a relatively small Electoral College “misfire” on the order of 1888 or 2000. Instead, it is a corrupt and cynical maneuver to frustrate popular will and put a heavy thumb — the whole hand, in fact — on the scale for future Republican candidates. We do not play presidential politics with a golf handicap awarded to the weaker side.
Republicans face a choice that can best be characterized by personalizing it. A healthy, optimistic party is Reaganesque, convinced that it can win the future by embracing it, and by making a positive case for its philosophy and candidates to all Americans. A party in decline is Nixonian and fears the future; it sees enemies everywhere, feels overwhelmed by electoral trends, and thinks it can win only by cheating, by subverting the system and stacking the deck in its favor. Whose presidency was more successful, Reagan’s or Nixon’s? Which man made the Republican brand more appealing?
Sorry, but that argument doesn’t cut it.
Award by congressional district is in use in two states, has been proposed many times before elsewhere, and still requires presidential candidates to win elections in congressional districts. It may favor Republicans, or it may not, depending on the state and the presidential candidate. Awarding electoral votes by district may have a positive impact of forcing candidates to campaign outside the large cities and bring a more geographically diverse electorate into the voting booth for them.
To equate it to cheating is constitutionally ignorant. I also reject the methodology of looking back at the last election in which the system was not in place and forecasting future results. The fact is we don’t know what the results would have been if the candidates had to alter their campaign strategies under a district-based formula.
While awarding electors by congressional district may favor Republicans now in some states, it may favor Democrats in the future, just as the winner take all favors Democrats now. To take a temporal view and declare it “cheating” shows that the accuser is politicizing the issue just as much as the alleged cheaters.
Indeed, look at the rogues gallery screaming that Republicans want to “rig” the system:
Oh, TPM and Think Progress are only concerned with fairness, right? And Balloon Juice and Maddow Blog? If they are against it, it’s almost certainly good for the nation.
If the shoe were on the other foot we know what the result would be. They like the current system — which is not constitutionally required — because it helps them.
The push and pull of redistricting as a result of state-level elections is part of the process, and if it impacts the Electoral College, so be it.
Elections have consequences. Including at the state level.