Over the past six months, someone—or a group of someones—has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to fund an effort to change the rules of the 2012 presidential election tomake it very difficult for President Barack Obama to win reelection. But the shadowy lobbying group mounting this campaign hasn’t disclosed its donors—and under current law, it doesn’t have to.
In two states, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, GOP legislators have introduced bills that would change how electoral votes—a candidate needs 270 of the 538 to win the presidency—are awarded in a presidential election. Under the current system, the winner of the statewide popular vote receives all of the electoral votes from that state.
If the Republican plan becomes law in either Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, those states would change how electoral votes are awarded. The new plan would allot electoral votes on the basis of vote totals within congressional districts. If a candidate wins a congressional district, he or she would receive one electoral college vote. Whoever does best in the statewide race would receive two electoral votes.
Because Republicans will draw the boundaries of the congressional districts in both states, the new rules would mean that Obama could win the states but still receive fewer electoral votesthan his Republican opponent. Should a Republican split the states’ electoral votes with Obama (even if Obama draws more votes), that could provide the GOPer with the margin of victory in a close race. (Under the US Constitution, it is up to the states to allot electoral votes as they see fit.)
In Pennsylvania, a secretive nonprofit group called All Votes Matter has been pushing the electoral vote scheme since May. All Votes Matter has close ties to the Pennsylvania GOP—it hired a number of former top state Senate staffers-turned-lobbyists. “It was pretty much the Senate GOP All Star Lobbying Team and [former state House Democratic Counsel Bill] Sloane,” Peter DeCoursey, the bureau chief for Capitolwire, a newswire that’s read religiously by Harrisburg insiders, explained in September.