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Obama wins Electoral College vote; Republicans seek changes in state rules

Published: Tuesday, Dec. 18, 2012 9:32 a.m. CDT

(MCT) — WASHINGTON — In the end, it wasn’t close.

Despite predictions that the presidential election could end in an electoral vote tie, or that the winner of the popular vote could again be denied the White House by the Electoral College, President Barack Obama won his anticipated 126-vote landslide Monday as the 538 electors officially voted in statehouses.

But 12 years after Al Gore’s defeat prompted some Democrats to call for changing to the constitutionally prescribed method of choosing the president, Republicans are now mounting efforts in key states to end the winner-take-all method that most states employ. Some Republican strategists believe that could counter the advantage Democrats have gained on the path to the needed 270 electoral votes.

Only two states, Nebraska and Maine, do not award the full slate of electors to one candidate based on the statewide result. In those states, a statewide victory gets two votes and the remaining electors are awarded by congressional district.

Some Republicans are pressing for vote-rich battlegrounds — such as Florida, Michigan and Pennsylvania — with Republican-led state legislatures to adopt similar systems. If, for example, Florida had used congressional district allocation, Mitt Romney could have won 16 of 29 electoral votes.

Dominic Pileggi, the Republican leader in the Pennsylvania state Senate, introduced such a proposal this year, but faced resistance from Democrats and some in his party who were worried that it could hurt them.

Pileggi introduced a revised version that would award 18 of the state’s 20 electoral votes proportionally based on the statewide vote. Under that approach, Obama would have won 12 votes and Romney eight. Were such a proposal in place nationwide, Obama would still have won a second term, according to a third-party analysis cited by Pileggi’s office, but the Electoral College results would have more closely mirrored the national vote.

“This is a debate that goes beyond Pennsylvania,” Pileggi said. “It’s hard to understand opposition to a more fair allocation of Electoral College votes.”

In the past 200 years, 700 proposals have been introduced in Congress to reform or eliminate the Electoral College, according to the National Archives.

Rep. Steve Israel, D-N.Y., introduced a constitutional amendment in October modeled on a proposal from a 1978 task force to expand the Electoral College and award the 29 additional votes to the national winner of the popular vote. Israel said that would encourage candidates to campaign in populous states that are not swing states, but protect the influence of smaller states.

An ongoing campaign called National Popular Vote aims to create a compact among the states to award electors to the winner of the national vote regardless of the state results. So far, eight states and the District of Columbia have enacted such legislation. Those states, which include California, are Democratic states, a result that John Koza, a former Stanford University professor who is chairman of National Popular Vote, attributes to Democrats’ displeasure with Gore’s 2000 loss.

“There’s no question that any election bill is scrutinized on the basis of partisan politics. But I have never heard a convincing case as to why a national popular vote helps or hurts either party,” he said. “The real problem is this distortion that the campaign is limited to nine states, which means the issues important to the other 41 states are not on the radar of the White House.”

Although the National Popular Vote has not yet drawn support from Republican states, Republicans are increasingly supporting Electoral College reform. Since 1992, Democratic candidates have consistently carried states that account for 242 electoral votes, just 28 shy of the winning threshold.

“I think the push for a national popular vote has caused a lot of people to step back and say, if that’s a viable option, are there others?” said Saul Anuzis, a former Michigan Republican chairman and Republican National Committee member. “A congressional district plan or a proportional plan or a national popular vote, I think, are better for Republicans across the country.”

After Monday’s meetings of electors, states will send certified tallies to the Capitol Hill office of Vice President Joe Biden in his capacity as president of the Senate. A joint session of Congress will count the votes in January, at which point Obama will officially be announced as the winner.

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