So there’s this new Republican plan in Pennsylvania under which the state would assign its electoral votes to presidential candidates based on which congressional district is won by each (which, of course, is what Maine and Nebraska already do). The net effect of this plan, of course, would be to increase the average number of electoral votes received by Republican candidates and decrease the average number received by Democratic ones. (For what it’s worth, the Nebraska version of this idea does the opposite, as current president Obama can attest.)
Not to pick on Charlie Davis, because he’s not the only person I’ve heard say this, but here’s a somewhat standard response from certain corners of the internet. What’s interesting to me, however, is that this is actually the opposite of the kind of hypocrisy Davis is crying foul about. The reason Democrats and assorted other liberals (like me) wanted to change up the Electoral College (hereafter “EC” to save my fingers some wear and tear) after 2000 is because that election brought into stark relief the fact that the EC disenfranchises a whole lot of people. Looking at the extremes, you have California (population 37,253,956; 55 electoral votes) and Wyoming (population 563,626; 3 electoral votes): California gets 1 EV for about 675,000 people, while Wyoming gets 1 for about 188,000 people. It is, as we saw in 2000, not hard to imagine a scenario in which the candidate who gets the most votes loses the election.
Of course, you already know all that. But that means you also know why Democrats and assorted other liberals (DAAOL is not a very catchy acronym, but I’ll work on it) would oppose the Pennsylvania plan. It has nothing to do with hypocrisy and everything to do with either (depending on your level of cynicism) winning elections or preventing the further disenfranchisement of voters (in this case, urban black ones especially). Perhaps to his credit, Rick Moran at Pajamas Media gets this, even if he just uses it as a cudgel to attack liberals for gaming the system (without even bothering to note that that street goes two ways).
The reality is that congressional districts are almost always drawn in a way that lumps heavily-Democratic urban voters together in extremely lopsided districts. Take a look at the Wikipedia article on the Cook Partisan Voting Index. The most Democratic districts are D+41; the most Republican are R+29; some quick math tells me that the average Republican-leaning district is R+10.23, while the average Democratic-leaning district is D+14.22. This is largely not all that nefarious; it’s because Democratic-leaning votes tend to cluster in urban areas. It is the same reason that the EC as a whole privileges Republican candidates (at this point in history, anyway; times change).
In any case, what surprised me about this was that the parties are being remarkably consistent in their aims. Of course, as Rick Moran and I pointed out above, it also dovetails nicely with their electoral interests, which may be the only reason they have managed to muster up some consistency in the first place.