Gerrymandering the Presidency: Why Trump could lose the popular vote in 2020 by 6 percent and still win a second term.
- February 8, 2017
- Tony Smith, poli sci, via the London School of Economics
Donald Trump was the clear Electoral College winner in the 2016 election, despite losing the popular vote by a wide margin to Hillary Clinton. Anthony J. McGann, Charles Anthony Smith, Michael Latner and Alex Keena write that, unless the Supreme Court stops congressional gerrymandering, President Trump can guarantee re-election in 2020 – even if he loses by 6 percent.
When the US Supreme Court takes up the issue of partisan gerrymandering this year, they will decide not only the fate of popular control in the House of Representatives and many state legislatures, but quite possibly the Presidency as well. If four Republican controlled state governments (Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin and Florida) change the way they allocate Electoral College votes, President Trump could be re-elected in 2020, even if he loses the popular vote by 6 percentage points. All the states need do is to allocate Electoral College votes by congressional district (like Nebraska and Maine), instead of giving all of the state’s electors to the statewide winner.
Of course, this strategy only works to the benefit of the Republicans because the congressional districts in these states are heavily gerrymandered. As we argue in our book Gerrymandering in America, the congressional districts in many states are drawn to advantage the Republican Party. For example, in Pennsylvania in 2012 the Republicans took 13 out of 18 House districts even though the Democrats received more votes. If this partisan gerrymandering were outlawed, then allocating Electoral College votes by congressional district in the four states would actually disadvantage the Republican candidate for President.
However, if the Supreme Court continues to allow partisan gerrymandering – as it has since its decision Vieth v. Jubelirer in 2004 – then the plan is highly effective and there is nothing that can stop the four states adopting it. Allocating Electors by congressional district is clearly legal – Nebraska and Maine already do it this way. Furthermore, the Republicans control the state legislature and the governor’s mansion in all four states.
Read on, courtesy of the London School of Economics.
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