A few months after losing the White House, Republicans across the country have had a revelation: The Electoral College could use some improvements. The problem is that they have contradictory proposals for how to fix it—and contradictory arguments for why those proposals would help Americans pick their president. In Wisconsin, Michigan, and New Hampshire, GOP lawmakers want to award Electoral College votes by congressional district, just like Nebraska and Maine currently do. But in Nebraska, Republicans want to do the opposite, and return to the same winner-takes-all method used by, well, Wisconsin, Michigan, New Hampshire, and almost every other state.
These Republicans do agree on one thing, however: They insist that their proposals have nothing—absolutely nothing—to do with Donald Trump’s defeat in the 2020 election.
“I think people would just feel better knowing that their vote went to the candidate that they chose in their area,” Gary Tauchen, a GOP state legislator in Wisconsin, told me recently. Tauchen is 67 and retiring next year, and the measure he’s introduced, which would split Wisconsin’s electoral votes by congressional district, could be a capstone to a 16-year career in the legislature. Under his bill, even if deep-blue Milwaukee and Madison pushed the state into the Democratic column—as they have in eight of the past nine presidential elections—shutting out Republicans entirely would be virtually impossible. Tauchen said he would have introduced his bill even if Trump had won Wisconsin last year. Why, then, didn’t he push it after 2016, when Trump narrowly carried the state? “The timing wasn’t right, I don’t think,” he said. “This just seemed more appropriate for right now.”