Michigan's Republican governor, Rick Snyder, told the Associated Press last week that he could "go either way" on changing the method for allocating his state's electoral votes but doesn't plan to push the idea. A GOP lawmaker who failed in an earlier effort to change the system has said he plans to reintroduce the measure this year.
Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted, a target of intense criticism from Democrats in 2012 over voting procedures, has backed away from a post-election suggestion that his state move to a system of awarding electoral votes by congressional district. Such a plan would have given Romney 12 of the state's 18 electoral votes (he lost Ohio by 5 percentage points and wound up with no electoral votes). Husted, a Republican, told the Cincinnati Enquirer that his comments were taken out of context and that he was neither advocating nor promoting the electoral change.
The Republican proposals, which critics are calling a power grab, are also being discussed in Wisconsin, scene of some of the most heated partisan warfare of the last four years.
Only Nebraska and Maine allow a divided electoral vote, and it has happened only once: In 2008, Obama won a single electoral vote in Nebraska, while losing statewide, by carrying an Omaha-area district.
If a proportional distribution of electoral votes went into effect in a number of swing states, it could have far-reaching effects on the election of the next president. In theory, Romney could have won in 2012 under such a plan, though that calculation doesn't account for campaign strategies that would have been radically different had the contest centered around the vote in individual congressional districts, rather than entire states.
Ideas for altering the electoral college are the latest outgrowth of a 2010 midterm election that brought Republicans to power in swing states. Using their new influence, GOP officials proposed sweeping changes in election procedures that were described as voter suppression by Democrats and some independent analysts. In several states, opponents succeeded in getting the courts to block some of the changes, including restrictions on voter registration and early voting. In the end, instead of preventing Obama's re-election, the GOP effort produced a backlash against Republican politicians.
Republican Gov. Rick Scott of Florida has announced that he wants to expand early voting in his state, having signed into law a measure that curbed early voting in 2012. A recent study of data compiled by The Orlando Sentinel found that long lines on election day discouraged more than 200,000 Floridians from voting in November.
"There's this perception, among the public, that the Republicans were trying to manipulate the presidential election" in 2012, said political scientist Michael McDonald of George Mason University. He warned that if Republicans succeed in changing the way electoral votes are awarded, it could lead to retaliation against governors and state legislators by "super PACs" and the national Democratic Party.
"This would all snowball together into a situation that I don't think these state legislators want to find themselves in. They're running a real risk here of losing complete control of their destinies," McDonald said.