MADISON, Wis. -- Gov. Scott Walker is open to having Wisconsin allocate its Electoral College votes based on results from each congressional district -- a move that would offer Republicans a chance to score at least a partial victory in a state that has gone Democratic in the last seven presidential elections.
The idea is being considered in other battleground states that have tipped toward Democrats as
Republicans try to develop a
national plan to capture the presidency in future years.
The GOP governor said he found the notion intriguing but neither embraced it nor rejected it.
"To me, it's an interesting concept, it's a plausible concept, but it's not one where I'm convinced either of its merits or lack thereof," he said in a recent interview at the governor's mansion in Maple Bluff.
Democrats promised to fight such a change, saying they viewed it as a way for Republicans to try to rig elections to their advantage.
"They cannot win a fair and square election in a presidential year, so (they say) we have to change the rules of the game," said Mike Tate, chairman of the state Democratic Party.
Republicans will control both houses of the Legislature starting next month, giving them the opportunity to reallocate how electoral votes are doled out.
Like 47 other states, Wisconsin grants all its electoral votes to whichever presidential candidate wins the statewide vote. Two states -- Nebraska and Maine -- give two electoral votes to the statewide winner and parcel out the rest by congressional district. As it happens, all their votes have gone to a single candidate, except in 2008, when one electoral vote in Omaha was given to Barack Obama.
If Wisconsin adopted such a system, the votes would be split routinely. If the state had such a system this year, Obama would have gotten five votes and his Republican opponent, Mitt Romney, would have gotten five.
Wisconsin has gone for the Democratic candidate in every presidential election since 1988. It has continued to draw attention from both parties, nonetheless.
The Badger State's distinction as a battleground has meant it enjoys frequent visits from presidential candidates and their surrogates, as well as a glut of political ads. Walker acknowledged that Wisconsin would likely lose that distinction if it split up its Electoral College votes by congressional districts.
"I think being a battleground state is a good thing because we get to hear from the candidates, people are interested in us," he said. "I think for a lot of people if (changing the allocation of Electoral College votes is) viewed as diminishing that prospect, there might be reluctance."
But Walker also argued that "if you applied that standard today we'd still be a battleground state" because Wisconsin would have split its Electoral College votes between each party's candidate.