Barack Obama faced a record amount of campaign spending against him and an 8% unemployment rate, yet he managed to win reelection in a landslide, capturing 62% of the electoral vote. However, Obama won the popular vote by only 4 percentage points. This is because Democrats have a built-in advantage in the Electoral College.
An already large disadvantage is getting larger for Republicans as they face demographic apocalypse, with old white voters being replaced by young minority voters. As Hispanic populations grow, perennial swing states like Nevada, Colorado, and Virginia are becoming solidly blue states. And once Texas, Arizona, and Georgia go blue in 2020 and beyond, the GOP will be perpetually shutout of the presidency (barring some kind of massive sea change in voting patterns).
It's no secret that Republicans have long been planning to rig the electoral vote in blue states that they currently control like Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin. If you're unfamiliar with the idea, there are two variations on the same plan:
The first idea is to apportion electoral votes by Congressional district, which would've granted Romney more electoral votes in PA, MI, and WI than Obama, even though Obama won all those states by over six points. This idea has lost traction, mostly because it's so fucking absurd that it would only serve to provide a much-needed civics lesson to the country's low-information voters on gerrymandering, and Republicans sure as hell don't want voters understanding why they control the House right now.
The second idea, which I expect to see return soon, is to replace the winner-take-all system with a system that apportions electoral votes by percentage of the total vote. So instead of getting all of Pennsylvania's electoral votes, Obama would have gotten 11 and Romney would have gotten 9 because Obama won 52% and Romney 46%. This could actually be a somewhat reasonable system if every state used it, but of course Republicans in Texas and Mississippi aren't turning over nearly half of their electoral votes to Democrats, so it's an obvious sham to rig the game.
In all the states where it was attempted in 2013, Republicans ended up tabling the bills. A lot of people think that these vote-rigging bills died because Republican governors like Synder and McDonnell stopped them. But these Governors stopped the bills only out of self-preservation. McDonnell had obvious Presidential aspirations (not anymore obviously) and Synder needed to get reelected a year later. The backlash of rigging electoral votes would likely make these GOP Governors unelectable in their own state.
But what happens in a lame duck session? Corbett is almost certainly going to lose in November, and with huge majorities in the legislature and nothing to lose, he could easily ram it through before he leaves office. Same thing could happen in Michigan or Wisconsin, or even Florida, where the writing is on the wall in terms of their demographic disaster there. I could easily see Rick Scott granting one final "fuck you" to Florida voters and granting half of Florida's 29 votes to the GOP.
If you think this can't or won't happen, think again. There are three reasons it will likely happen:
1) Republicans have the votes to pass these bills. If state legislators are brazen enough to pass rape-insurance laws or blatantly racist cuts to early voting, they won't think twice about rigging votes.
2) Legal challenges would likely fail, as states have the right to decide how they award their own electoral votes. After all, Maine and Nebraska don't have winner-take-all systems, and Obama even campaigned in and won one of Nebraska's electoral districts in 2008.
3) The media will report "both sides" like good little stenographers, and RYNZ PREEBUS will be on the TeeVee explaining how this system is just "more fair" and "allows the voters of these states to have their votes counted" or some kind bullshit like that. As usual, the public who is outraged by manufactured IRS scandals will mostly ignore electoral vote rigging, because the media is horrible and people like David Gregory exist.
Since the media won't do their job, Democrats need a plan to combat this assault on the electorate... I have that plan. Are you ready? Repeat after me...
National. Popular. Vote.
A National Popular Vote nullifies all this electoral vote rigging bullshit. There was some push for a National Popular Vote after Bush v Gore, but it seems to have died. Let's be real: the Electoral College doesn't make any sense anymore. The President represents all of us. We should each be given an equal say as to who he/she is.
Besides being the most democratic way to elect a President, the National Popular Vote has the added benefit of driving up voter turnout throughout the country in non-swing states. And we all know what happens when voter participation goes up? Democrats win.
How many left-leaning voters in red states don't bother to vote because they know their vote won't matter? Millions. And higher turnout not only helps us at the Presidential level, but also helps drive up votes at the Congressional level.
Democrats shouldn't wait for Republicans to start rigging the electoral college. Obama, Hillary, and all the other party leaders need to start championing the National Popular Vote on a regular basis, and frame it as a fairness issue. It's not fair that Ohio and Virginia get 20 visits a piece from POTUS candidates while Mississippi and Vermont get zero. It's not fair that a Republican's Presidential vote in California or a Democrat's vote in Oklahoma are totally worthless.
Republicans are always going to disrespect voters. That's a given at this point. But the National Popular Vote is one sure-fire way to stop them, while also boosting overall voter turnout, which is good for the country.
9:11 AM PT: UPDATE:
A lot of commenters are expressing fears that because many states don't have recount laws, national popular vote would be a disaster in a close election. These fears are unfounded for several reasons:
1) a tie in a vote of over 150 million votes is statistically near-impossible. A 270-270 electoral vote on the other hand is much, much more likely.
2) states would still be responsible for certifying their own results, so in the event of a very close election, all the states with recount laws would recount their votes and all the states without recount laws would settle any discrepancies in the courts, the same as they do today.
3) any bill or Constitutional amendment to implement National Popular Vote could easily include language requiring individual states to have recount laws, solving this "problem" (it's really not a big problem)