Let’s talk about this in the context of Presidential elections and the Electoral College.
Two states, Nebraska and Maine, award Electoral College votes on the basis of which candidate won the state’s Congressional districts in the popular vote. The winner of a district gets one Electoral vote, and (in general) the winner of the state’s overall popular vote gets two Electoral College votes. Four other states, Virginia, Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, are actively moving in that direction, with a number of other states in the talking stage. Virginia is the farthest along, having passed out of committee a by-district proposal in the state Senate (awarding the two votes to the candidate winning the most districts rather than the overall popular vote) and sent it to the full Senate.
What’s interesting here is not so much the rationale for making the move, but the arguments against and who is making those arguments.
Virginia State Senator Donald McEachin (D) calls the bill a “sore-loser bill” and added
The bill is absolutely a partisan bill aimed at defying the will of the voters, giving Republican presidential candidates most of Virginia’s electoral votes, regardless of who carries the state[.]
Virginia State Delegate Vivian Watts (D) sponsored or co-sponsored several bills over the years that would have apportioned Virginia’s electoral votes by Congressional district; she had this to say about that:
I’m age 72 so I spent a lot of years in the wilderness and the last time the state had gone Democratic [before 2008] was following the assassination of John F Kennedy. I thought back in those days about how we were just totally ignored.
But she opposes the present bill coming before the House of Delegates. The argument that Democrats weren’t getting their voices heard yesterday is valid, but the argument that Republicans aren’t getting their voices heard today is invalid. Hmm….
Nationally, Democrats also oppose today what they wanted yesterday. Mike Tate, Democratic Party Chairman, had this to say:
They can’t appeal to a majority of voters, whether it’s here in Wisconsin or Michigan or in the rest of the Midwest, so they are undermining a majority of voters. The Republicans realize that where they are today, they can’t win a presidential election. It’s an audacious attempt to rig the system.
And, as The Washington Post summarizes,
Democrats nationwide attacked the proposed plans, which could tip the balance away from population-heavy urban centers to more rural districts that tend to favor Republicans.
Because bitter, gun-clinging, bible-toting rural Americans aren’t as important as more progressive, citified Americans.
Democratic political analyst Larry Sabato had this to say:
[I]t is a corrupt and cynical maneuver to frustrate popular will and put a heavy thumb—the whole hand, in fact—on the scale for future Republican candidates. We do not play presidential politics with a golf handicap awarded to the weaker side.
Republicans face a choice that can best be characterized by personalizing it. A healthy, optimistic party is Reaganesque, convinced that it can win the future by embracing it, and by making a positive case for its philosophy and candidates to all Americans. A party in decline is Nixonian and fears the future; it sees enemies everywhere, feels overwhelmed by electoral trends, and thinks it can win only by cheating, by subverting the system and stacking the deck in its favor.
No, we insist the handicap favor the Democrats. We insist that Democratic Chicago alone carry Illinois in its entirety, against the will of the rest of the state. We don’t accept that letting the grass roots—individual Americans themselves—determine the apportioning of Electoral College votes is in any way democratic.
It is the Democrats themselves, presently in the ascendant, who fear the future and want to seal their superiority by blocking—today—a more democratic apportionment.
Thus, as the Post points out at the end of the article at the first link above, this isn’t the first move (in Virginia, to take that state as our example):
[S]everal [Electoral College apportionment bills] have been introduced over the past decade, all with the same rationale of giving more say to voters on the losing side. The only difference is that those bills were submitted by Democrats, back when they weren’t having as much luck in the state in presidential elections.
And Democrats nationally were in favor of changing the Electoral College system to better favor them in the aftermath of their narrow losses in 2000 and 2004. And before that in response to the Nixon victories in the 1970s.
Ethics are what we say they are, say Democrats, when we need them to say that.