By Eric Boehm | PA Independent
HARRISBURG — Pennsylvania’s 20 presidential electors unanimously backed President Obama on Monday during the 57th meeting of the state’s Electoral College.
But it might be the last time the highly ceremonial yet official process for electing a president is done in such a uniform way.
A Republican-penned proposal already making waves weeks before the new legislative session begins would change how Pennsylvania awards its electoral votes. In place of the current winner-take-all system, in which the winner of the statewide popular vote gets all 20 of the state’s electoral votes, Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi, R-Chester, is proposing a proportional system that would tie electoral votes to the results of the popular vote, at least in Pennsylvania.
Monday, as hand-picked Democratic electors gathered in the state House chamber to officially stamp Obama’s second victory in Pennsylvania — and the sixth consecutive Democratic victory in the Keystone State during a presidential election cycle – many said they were opposed to Pileggi’s proposal.
“It would just unilaterally disarm our influence on the national scene,” said Clifford Levine, an attorney for the Senate Democrats.
After being elected president of the 57th edition of the Electoral College, Levine used the opportunity to blast the GOP plan, which, he said, would undermine the state’s history and place as one of the most important parts of the Electoral College system.
The stated goal of Pileggi’s plan is to more closely align Pennsylvania’s electoral vote with the state’s popular vote.
This year, for example, Obama won about 2.9 million votes in Pennsylvania, compared to 2.6 million for Mitt Romney. In the current winner-take-all system, Obama gets all 20 electoral votes, and those millions of people who supported Romney are essentially voiceless in the national vote tally.
In a proportional system, Obama would have collected 12 electoral votes in Pennsylvania, while Romney would have won eight votes.
“This advantage of this system is clear: It much more accurately reflects the will of the voters in our state,” Pileggi wrote in a memo to lawmakers announcing the legislation earlier this month.
If that system was used nationally, it would have reduced Obama’s margin of victory but would not have changed the outcome of the election.
Two states – Maine and Nebraska – award electoral votes based on congressional districts. Pennsylvania would be the first to use the proportional system, if Pileggi’s plan were adopted into law.
All other states use the winner-take-all method.
Democrats on Monday said the Pileggi plan was an attempt to reduce Pennsylvania’s electoral significance. Instead of being worth 20 votes, it would be worth a net of three or four votes, making the state a “third class” electoral prize instead of being one of the most important pieces on the map, said state Sen. Vincent Hughes, D-Philadelphia.
“It really is only the extension of some sour grapes because they lost the election,” Hughes said.
Erik Arneson, Pileggi’s spokesman, pointed out that Democrats criticized the timing of a similar proposal last year because they said it would have changed the rules right before a presidential election.
“Now they’re complaining when a new proposal is being introduced after a presidential election,” Arneson wrote in an email Monday. “They won’t be satisfied with any timing.”
If Republicans seek to change the game, they can hardly be blamed for trying. No Republican presidential candidate has carried the Keystone State since George H. W. Bush in 1988, which makes some in the GOP question if Pennsylvania can still be considered a “swing state.”
But if “blue states” such as Pennsylvania are going to award votes proportionally, Levine wants to see Republicans make similar efforts in places such as Texas, Alabama and Georgia – where fracturing GOP majorities would result in a net loss of votes for the Republican candidates.
Until then, there should be no such discussion in Pennsylvania, Levine said.
Contact Boehm at [email protected] and follow @PAIndependent on Twitter.
— Edited by John Trump at [email protected]