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Pennsylvania GOP's Plan To Change Electoral Vote Allocation Could Backfire

Sep 16, 2011

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Jeff Brady

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Some Republican leaders in Pennsylvania want to change how the state allocates its Electoral College votes. A proposal from Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi would get rid of the winner-take-all system that all but two states (Maine and Nebraska) use and allocate Pennsylvania's votes proportionately.

"I think that the Electoral College vote should more closely approximate the popular vote," says Pileggi.

In 2008, President Obama won about 55% of the popular vote in Pennsylvania, but received 100% of the states Electoral College votes.

Democrats claim Pileggi is just trying to help the GOP's 2012 presidential candidate. Pileggi wants to allocate electoral votes based on congressional districts and his party currently is re-drawing those district lines. Under his plan even the statewide loser could walk away with half or more of the electoral votes.

"This is the sort of thing that someone like Robert Mugabe does in Zimbabwe," says Sen. Daylin Leach, D-King of Prussia, Penn. "In America, we don't fix elections."

But with Republicans in control of both houses of the General Assembly and a Republican governor, Democrats have little chance of stopping a bill from becoming law.

Still, the proposal could backfire on Republicans. If Pennsylvania splits its 20 Electoral College votes in 2012 that could make the Keystone State a less-appealing campaign stop for candidates.

And it's not too difficult to imagine a scenario under which proportionate votes in the Electoral College could end up hurting some Republicans—especially members of Congress in Philadelphia's suburban swing districts.

Franklin & Marshall College political scientist Terry Madonna says if the statewide popular vote doesn't matter as much anymore, then Democrats might focus more on vulnerable Republicans

"And the Republican members of Congress from those swing districts are pushing back saying, 'Maybe this isn't the best idea we ever came up with...'" says Madonna.

State Republican leaders are meeting this weekend in Pennsylvania's capital, Harrisburg. The debate over how to allocate the state's Electoral College votes almost certainly will dominate many conversations.

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