Voting debate unlikely to endShould Wisconsin end the “winner-take all” approach in its presidential elections?
By: By Matt Pommer, Superior Telegram
Should Wisconsin end the “winner-take all” approach in its presidential elections?
Currently, the presidential candidate with the most Wisconsin votes gets all of the state’s 10 votes in the Electoral College, which actually elects the president. Some top Republicans suggest it would be fairer if eight of the votes were determined on results in each of the eight congressional districts. Only two votes would be awarded on the statewide totals.
Gov. Scott Walker calls it an “interesting idea.” Newly re-elected Republican National Chairman Reince Priebus, who hails from Wisconsin, is among those who have promoted the idea.
Republicans haven’t won a presidential election in Wisconsin since the last time Ronald Reagan was on the ballot in 1984. Even with Wisconsin’s own Paul Ryan as its vice-presidential candidate this year, Republicans lost Wisconsin.
Republicans have five of the state’s eight seats in the U.S. House of Representatives. Last year’s elections were the first under the district boundaries created by the Republican-controlled Legislature and Walker.
The reapportionment effort created three districts with large Democratic majorities. They include western Wisconsin and districts centered on Madison and Milwaukee.
It is unlikely Republicans will elect a House member from those districts in the next four congressional elections. Republicans will spend little money on those races. They are pleased with the 5-3 split that it likely to stand until at least 2022.
Awarding eight Electoral College votes on congressional lines would seem to assure a Republican presidential candidate would get at least half of the Wisconsin votes, regardless of whether the candidate was a conservative or moderate.
Another impact would be the two parties would spend less time, attention and money on the Wisconsin presidential election. That would be a sad development for the Wisconsin broadcast media, which had banner financial years in 2011 with the recall elections and in the national elections of 2012.
Some citizens may think less attention might be a good thing. It might mean fewer supper-hour telephone calls seeking your vote or asking your opinion on issues in the national election.
Wisconsin has long been recognized for the heavy turnout in elections. Would fewer television ads and telephone calls change the interest in voting?
Not everyone thinks a heavy turnout is a good thing. Last year Walker drew conservative praise when he promoted the concept of ending same-day registration in Wisconsin. He cited a heavy workload for voting clerks.
Walker retreated from the idea when he learned it would cost more than $5 million to end same-day registration and make other changes to comply with federal law.
Another favorite conservative move has been to require voters to show photo IDs when they go to the polls. The most-used photo IDs are driver licenses; critics contend that tens of thousands of poor and elderly don’t have driver licenses, forcing them to travel to state transportation offices to get similar IDs.
Walker and Priebus have argued there is widespread fraud in Wisconsin voting, although evidence has been lacking. The photo ID requirement is pending in the state courts. A final decision will be made by the state Supreme Court, now controlled by conservatives.