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Our Perspective

Journal Times editorial: Keep Wisconsin winner-take-all in the Electoral College

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Every now and then when we read about a piece of proposed legislation our immediate reaction is: “Oh, no — oh, hell no!”

We had that reaction last week when we read about a proposal from state Rep. Gary Tauchen, R-Bonduel, to reconfigure the allocation of Wisconsin’s 10 Electoral College votes, dropping the current winner-takes-all system, where the candidate who wins Wisconsin’s popular vote gets all 10 votes.

Under Tauchen’s proposal, the 10 electoral votes would be allocated by assigning one vote each for the winner of each of Wisconsin’s congressional districts. The remaining two electors would go to the statewide winner of the popular vote.

According to a report in the Wisconsin Examiner, a Madison-based nonprofit nonpartisan website, Tauchen introduced the bill Jan. 5 and was seeking co-sponsors, saying: “Given the numerous political views and progressive history, this alternative distribution system would better reflect Wisconsin’s diverse political landscape.”

While that seems to be a nice attempt at “sharing” for our political parties, we’re not expecting this legislation to produce a kumbaya moment.

Far from it — what it would actually do is water down Wisconsin’s impact on presidential elections and the national election scene.

Under Tauchen’s bill, as the Wisconsin Examiner noted, President Donald Trump would have received six of the state’s electoral college votes and President-elect Joe Biden would have received four votes. One western Wisconsin congressional district went for Trump, even though it is represented in Congress by a Democrat.

Across the country, 48 states allocate their electoral votes on a winner-take-all basis. The only ones that allocate on the basis of congressional districts are Nebraska and Maine.

Yes, we are a highly partisan state — split right down the middle in support of Republicans and Democrats.

That was evidenced in the recent presidential election — a squeaker that gave Biden a statewide margin of only 20,000 votes.

Being among a handful of battleground states — joined by Michigan, Georgia and Pennsylvania among them this time — gives Wisconsin voters an outsized influence on the national election. The Badger State would lose that power under Tauchen’s proposed system.

Instead of 10 electoral votes hanging in the balance from Wisconsin’s voters, we would drop to six or five. Our influence would slide below 15 other states and put us on a par with New Mexico and West Virginia — and only a vote ahead of Hawaii and Rhode Island, which aren’t at the top of the list when it comes to campaign stops.

It would put us in flyover land when it comes to presidential campaigns and candidates coming to Eau Claire, La Crosse, Madison, Green Bay, Milwaukee — and, yes, Racine and Kenosha.

We enjoy that national influence and we should be reluctant to give it up.

The Badger State shouldn’t be taken for granted and candidates who don’t respect that should suffer the consequences. Just ask Hillary Clinton, who decided not to make Wisconsin a campaign stop in 2016 and paid the price.

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