As an avid golfer, Donald Trump is no doubt quite familiar with the concept of a “mulligan.”
Simply put, this golfing tradition gives players in a friendly match (not the US. Open) the opportunity to take one bad shot over. The catch is, most golfers waste that privilege on their first mistake, then wish they had it back later when an even more horrendous shot occurs.
Still, the mulligan seems to work in golf. It doesn’t work in politics.
Recently, Arizona state legislator Shawna Bolick — still one of Trump’s supporters — put forth a bill that would essentially give that body “mulligan” power over the state’s Electoral College votes. No proof of any election fraud would need to be presented, and flipping the electors by a simple majority could be done all the way up to the presidential inauguration.
The only requirement, apparently, is that a majority of the state’s lawmakers wish the election had turned out differently. Moreover, according to the Bolick bill, the U.S. Supreme Court wouldn’t be allowed to throw out the state’s case because of jurisdictional or “standing” issues. (Good luck selling the high court on that one).
Odds are this won’t pass in the Arizona legislature, anyway, and even it does, it will probably be shot down on Constitutional grounds. Still, Bolick’s bill is just one more reason why the Electoral College needs to be abolished, or at least reworked. Otherwise, the labyrinth of “mulligan” possibilities unearthed by Trump’s army of attorneys will continue to rear their ugly heads every four years. Don’t think the Democrats wouldn’t be tempted to use them, too.
In most states, the Electoral College vote is winner take all. What obviously worries legislators in a lot of “red” states is that the relentless march of demographics will continue to produce more black and Hispanic voters than white ones. The resistance of red state legislatures to this could be based on racial issues, or it could simply be the fact that the aforementioned groups tend to skew Democratic these days.
That’s one reason why the Electoral College votes show up the way they do on Election Day. The more sparsely populated areas in most states, usually Republican-leaning, are counted first because there are fewer votes to count. Then, in the 11th hour, the great mass of urban votes is finally thrown into the mix. Since cities usually have more black and (in some states) Hispanic voters than the outlying regions, this might give the appearance that some sort of illegal “vote dumping” is occurring.
One of the factors that makes American politics so complicated is the awkward dance between state and national responsibilities. Counting and recording the vote in presidential elections falls upon the states, which are also allowed — up to a point — to play by their own rules.
The thing is, there is a significant difference between state and national elections.
State legislators come from specific counties or small geographic areas within a state, and thus occupy a level playing field with their urban counterparts. No matter how many black or Hispanic voters join the inevitable march of changing demographics, the cities in which the majority of them live will continue to be outnumbered by the outlying counties. Also, local elections often hinge on local issues, as well as how candidates are regarded personally by voters who know them well.
It would seem, however, that many state’s rights proponents now want it both ways. They argue that every state is different, and thus should be allowed to run its elections as it sees fit. At the same time, the most recent fiasco included a lawsuit brought by the Attorney General of Texas against the state legislature in Pennsylvania.
The days of the Electoral College are probably numbered, but those who want it gone will still have to fight a long battle, state by state. In the meantime, though, wouldn’t it make more sense to distribute the electoral votes proportionately? That, way, no one’s vote will be flushed simply because the other party gained a slim majority. That would also complicate any effort by a state legislature to set aside the result in a presidential election — if the party in the minority still got 40 percent of the votes, getting rid of the entire total might prove counterproductive.
The Bolick bill assumes that the Democratic advantage in numbers will continue to rise in Arizona, which this year went blue for the first time in decades. But instead of trying to keep a finger in the dike by reducing the number of voters, perhaps Arizona Republicans could use that energy finding ways to become more relevant to that new demographic.
In other words, they could try telling those voters what they will do for them, rather than focusing on what Democrats might do to them.
Darrell Laurant is a veteran journalist who previously worked at the News & Advance (Lynchburg). He published over 7,000 pieces in three decades. Darrell has covered papal visits, the Olympics, American sports, and political issues in Virginia. He has also written a variety of books, including "Inspiration Street: Two City Blocks that Helped Change America."