Proposal would change electoral college in Wis.

AP News
Posted: Oct 12, 2011 6:38 PM
Proposal would change electoral college in Wis.

A Republican lawmaker in Wisconsin wants to change how Wisconsin awards electoral votes _ a proposal that spurred a swift, negative reaction Wednesday from Democrats who see the move as an attempt to help Republican presidential candidates.

Wisconsin joins at least two other states where changes to how Electoral College votes are being discussed heading into the 2012 presidential election. The 10 electoral votes in Wisconsin, which has a winner-take-all system, went to President Barack Obama in the 2008 election.

Wisconsin state Rep. Dan LeMahieu on Wednesday circulated a proposal for co-sponsors that make so a single electoral vote would go to the winner in each of Wisconsin's eight congressional districts. The statewide winner would get two electoral votes.

The proposal got a tepid response from Republicans who control the Legislature. The Legislature could take up the bill this fall, although Republican Gov. Scott Walker and legislative leaders have said they want to stay focused on bills related to the economy. After this month, the Legislature isn't scheduled to be back in session until January.

"We're much more focused on legislation that will help create jobs and get the economy on track," said Andrew Welhouse, a spokesman for Republican Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald.

Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald hadn't yet fully discussed the idea with Republican lawmakers, said his spokesman John Jagler.

While Republicans were guarded in their comments, one Democratic lawmaker sent an email urging her colleagues not to support it. The leader of a liberal activist group called it a blatant attempt to fix elections in favor of the GOP.

"The depths to which Republicans in Wisconsin will sink to rig elections appear to be bottomless," said Scot Ross, director of One Wisconsin Now.

Congressional boundary lines were redrawn this year by Republicans who control the Legislature as part of the once-a-decade task of redistricting. In general, the changes make the districts less competitive and more likely to remain under the same party's control in 2012. Five of the state's U.S. House members are Republicans and three are Democrats.

If that were to hold in 2012, the Republican presidential candidate would capture at least half of the state's electoral votes, depending on who won the statewide vote. No Republican has carried Wisconsin since Ronald Reagan did in 1984.

Democratic state Rep. Kelda Helen Roys of Madison said the change would make Wisconsin irrelevant in the presidential race. Knowing that four or five districts are solidly Republican and two are solidly Democrat would give presidential candidates little reason to come to Wisconsin and fight for votes or respond to the state's needs, Roys said.

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LeMahieu argued for the bill in an email to members of the Wisconsin Legislature, saying it would help protect the votes of those in the congressional districts who may favor a different candidate than the one who gets the statewide vote. LeMahieu set an Oct. 20 deadline for lawmakers who wish to co-sponsor the bill to get back to him.

Republicans in Pennsylvania and Nebraska have also suggested changes to the way their states award Electoral College votes. In Democratic-leaning Pennsylvania, lawmakers are considering switching to awarding votes per congressional district. In Republican-leaning Nebraska, lawmakers want to go to a winner-take-all system four years after Obama won the state's 2nd Congressional District and its single Electoral College vote.

It takes 270 Electoral College votes to win the presidency out of 538 up for grabs.