Capitolwire: Pileggi Wants to Change PA Electoral Process

PA Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi wants to allot Pennsylvania’s electoral college votes on a congressional district by district basis, rather than the current system of winner take all.

In a state like Pennsylvania, where Democratic candidates for President have won every election since 1988, it could be a way for Republicans to avoid a total loss.

Capitolwire’s Pete DeCoursey has the scoop:

Pileggi says he wants to change that “winner-take-all system,” and guide the system used in Maine and Nebraska through Pennsylvania’s Legislature this fall, before the 2012 presidential votes are cast. Republicans in both chambers say the bill has a strong chance of moving fast enough to be approved for next year.

“The system we have now, is a winner-take-all system, the system I am proposing would more precisely conform the electoral college to the popular vote and it would make the presidential election more relevant across the state, give voters more of a sense that they are active participants in the presidential election.”

While Democratic State Committee officials could not be reached for comment, Neil Oxman, the media consultant for the last two Democratic gubernatorial nominees and for 2010 Democratic U.S. Senate nominee Joe Sestak, said it was all about politics.

Oxman said Pileggi and his proposal were “right wing” and “reactionary. … Also a poster boy for why this state needs term limits for the idiots in Harrisburg.”

Pileggi responded: “I have no reason to comment on his opinion. … I am not sure what others are going to say. The reasons in favor of my proposal are clear. It is hard to argue against the facts that congressional districts have very different results and what we do right now does not reflect the diversity of Pennsylvania.”

In 2008, that would have meant President Barack Obama, who won the state 21-0 under the current winner-takes-all law, would have won by a mere 11-10, if Pileggi’s law was in place.

Read the entire story here (paywall).

September 8th, 2011 | Posted in Front Page Stories, Harrisburg, Presidential | 17 Comments

17 thoughts on “Capitolwire: Pileggi Wants to Change PA Electoral Process”

  1. WOULD THAT NOT BE NOVEL.ONE PERSON, ONE VOTE, AND MY VOTE WOULD MEAN SOMETHING. A TRUE POPULAR VOTE. RIGHT NOW MY VOTE IS NOT WORTH A DAM!!!

  2. oldgulph says:

    The Founding Fathers in the Constitution did not require states to allow their citizens to vote for president, much less award all their electoral votes based upon the vote of their citizens.

    The presidential election system we have today is not in the Constitution. State-by-state winner-take-all laws to award Electoral College votes, are an example of state laws eventually enacted by states, using their exclusive power to do so, AFTER the Founding Fathers wrote the Constitution, Now our current system can be changed by state laws again.

    Unable to agree on any particular method, the Founding Fathers left the choice of method for selecting presidential electors exclusively to the states by adopting the language contained in section 1 of Article II of the U.S. Constitution– “Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors . . .” The U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly characterized the authority of the state legislatures over the manner of awarding their electoral votes as “plenary” and “exclusive.”

    The constitution does not prohibit any of the methods that were debated and rejected. Indeed, a majority of the states appointed their presidential electors using two of the rejected methods in the nation’s first presidential election in 1789 (i.e., appointment by the legislature and by the governor and his cabinet). Presidential electors were appointed by state legislatures for almost a century.

    Neither of the two most important features of the current system of electing the President (namely, universal suffrage, and the 48 state-by-state winner-take-all method) are in the U.S. Constitution. Neither was the choice of the Founders when they went back to their states to organize the nation’s first presidential election.

    In 1789, in the nation’s first election, the people had no vote for President in most states, only men who owned a substantial amount of property could vote, and only three states used the state-by-state winner-take-all method to award electoral votes.

    The current 48 state-by-state winner-take-all method (i.e., awarding all of a state’s electoral votes to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in a particular state) is not entitled to any special deference based on history or the historical meaning of the words in the U.S. Constitution. It is not mentioned in the U.S. Constitution, the debates of the Constitutional Convention, or the Federalist Papers. The actions taken by the Founding Fathers make it clear that they never gave their imprimatur to the winner-take-all method.

    The constitutional wording does not encourage, discourage, require, or prohibit the use of any particular method for awarding the state’s electoral votes.

    As a result of changes in state laws enacted since 1789, the people have the right to vote for presidential electors in 100% of the states, there are no property requirements for voting in any state, and the state-by-state winner-take-all method is used by 48 of the 50 states. States can, and frequently have, changed their method of awarding electoral votes over the years.

  3. Judy Brown says:

    Under the National Popular vote if Pennsylvania Electors were winner take all Republican but if the democrat won the national vote even by one vote then that candidate would get our Republican votes. Or if PA went democrat in winner take all and the Repbublican won the National vote by one vote then that person would get the democrat votes. It’s that simple. That’s not a representative Republic that’s a democracy.

  4. oldgulph says:

    Dividing a state’s electoral votes by congressional district would magnify the worst features of the Electoral College system.

    If the district approach were used nationally, it would be less fair and less accurately reflect the will of the people than the current system. In 2004, Bush won 50.7% of the popular vote, but 59% of the districts. Although Bush lost the national popular vote in 2000, he won 55% of the country’s congressional districts.

    The district approach would not provide incentive for presidential candidates to campaign in a particular state or focus the candidates’ attention to issues of concern to the state. Under the 48 state-by-state winner-take-all laws(whether applied to either districts or states), candidates have no reason to campaign in districts or states where they are comfortably ahead or hopelessly behind. In North Carolina, for example, there are only 2 districts (the 13th with a 5% spread and the 2nd with an 8% spread) where the presidential race is competitive. In California, the presidential race is competitive in only 3 of the state’s 53 districts. Nationwide, there are only 55 “battleground” districts that are competitive in presidential elections. Under the present deplorable 48 state-level winner-take-all system, two-thirds of the states (including California and Texas) are ignored in presidential elections; however, seven-eighths of the nation’s congressional districts would be ignored if a district-level winner-take-all system were used nationally.

    Because there are generally more close votes on district levels than states as whole, district elections increase the opportunity for error. The larger the voting base, the less opportunity there is for an especially close vote.

    Also, a second-place candidate could still win the White House without winning the national popular vote.

    A national popular vote is the way to make every person’s vote equal and guarantee that the candidate who gets the most votes in all 50 states becomes President.

  5. oldgulph says:

    The National Popular Vote bill is a state-based approach. It preserves the Electoral College and state control of elections. It changes the way electoral votes are awarded in the Electoral College.

    The Republic is not in any danger from National Popular Vote. It has nothing to do with direct democracy.

    Under National Popular Vote, citizens would not rule directly but, instead, continue to elect the President by a majority of Electoral College votes, to represent them and conduct the business of government in the periods between elections.

    When the bill is enacted by states possessing a majority of the electoral votes– enough Electoral College votes to elect a President (270 of 538), all the Electoral College votes from the enacting states would be awarded to the presidential candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states and DC.

    To abolish the Electoral College would need a constitutional amendment, and could be stopped by states with as little as 3% of the U.S. population.

    Under a national popular vote, every vote everywhere will be equally important politically. There will be nothing special about a vote cast in a big city or big state. When every vote is equal, candidates of both parties will seek out voters in small, medium, and large towns throughout the states in order to win. A vote cast in a big city or state will be equal to a vote cast in a small state, town, or rural area.

    If the National Popular Vote bill were to become law, it would not change the need for candidates to build a winning coalition across demographics. Any candidate who yielded, for example, the 21% of Americans who live in rural areas in favor of a “big city” approach would not likely win the national popular vote. Candidates would have to appeal to a broad range of demographics, and perhaps even more so, because the election wouldn’t be capable of coming down to just one demographic, such as voters in Ohio.

    With National Popular Vote, every vote, everywhere, would be politically relevant and equal in presidential elections. Wining states would not be the goal. Candidates would need to care about voters across the nation, not just undecided voters in the current handful of swing states. Now, under the current system, they ignore over 85 million voters – 2/3rds of states.

  6. Judy Brown says:

    To Oldgulph
    The National popular vote is direct democracy. It is a backdoor process to eliminte the electoral college without a constitutional amendment. You are worried about candidates campaigning across the state? With the National Popular vote they would only campaign in states where they can get the most votes.

    I like the congressional district idea. I would like to know that my vote counts in my district and if my district goes Republican the Republican Candidate would win my district. I believe more voters would come out and vote if they thought their vote really counted.

  7. oldgulph says:

    The main media at the moment, namely TV, costs much more per impression in big cities than in smaller towns and rural area. So, if you just looked at TV, candidates get more bang for the buck in smaller towns and rural areas.

  8. Piasor says:

    Rather than cities, I should have used Metropolitan Statistical Areas, which encompass the suburban areas, but which also feature homogeneous media coverage, the purchase of which would offer potentially greater response than a purchase of similar coverage in states of lesser population density.

  9. oldgulph says:

    The population of the top five cities (New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston and Philadelphia) is only 6% of the population of the United States and the population of the top 50 cities (going as obscurely far down as Arlington, TX) is only 19% of the population of the United States.

    Suburbs and exurbs often vote Republican.

    If big cities controlled the outcome of elections, the governors and U.S. Senators would be Democratic in virtually every state with a significant city.

    Evidence as to how a nationwide presidential campaign would be run, can be found by examining the way presidential candidates campaign to win the electoral votes of closely divided battleground states, such as in Ohio and Florida, under the state-by-state winner-take-all methods. The big cities in those battleground states do not receive all the attention, much less control the outcome. Cleveland and Miami certainly did not receive all the attention or control the outcome in Ohio and Florida in 2000 and 2004.

    Because every vote is equal inside Ohio or Florida, presidential candidates avidly seek out voters in small, medium, and large towns. The itineraries of presidential candidates in battleground states (and their allocation of other campaign resources in battleground states) reflect the political reality that every gubernatorial or senatorial candidate in Ohio and Florida already knows–namely that when every vote is equal, the campaign must be run in every part of the state.

    Even in California state-wide elections, candidates for governor or U.S. Senate don’t campaign just in Los Angeles and San Francisco, and those places don’t control the outcome (otherwise California wouldn’t have recently had Republican governors Reagan, Dukemejian, Wilson, and Schwarzenegger). A vote in rural Alpine county is just an important as a vote in Los Angeles. If Los Angeles cannot control statewide elections in California, it can hardly control a nationwide election.

    In fact, Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Jose, and Oakland together cannot control a statewide election in California.

    Similarly, Republicans dominate Texas politics without carrying big cities such as Dallas and Houston.

    There are numerous other examples of Republicans who won races for governor and U.S. Senator in other states that have big cities (e.g., New York, Illinois, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts) without ever carrying the big cities of their respective states. It is certainly true that the biggest cities in those states typically vote Democratic. However, the suburbs, exurbs, small towns, and rural parts of the states often voted Republican. If big cities controlled the outcome of elections, the governors and U.S. Senators would be Democratic in virtually every state with a significant city.

    Under a national popular vote, every vote everywhere will be equally important politically. There will be nothing special about a vote cast in a big city or big state. When every vote is equal, candidates of both parties will seek out voters in small, medium, and large towns throughout the states in order to win. A vote cast in a big city or state will be equal to a vote cast in a small state, town, or rural area.

  10. oldgulph says:

    The National Popular Vote bill is a state-based approach. It preserves the Electoral College and state control of elections. It changes the way electoral votes are awarded in the Electoral College.

    The Republic is not in any danger from National Popular Vote. It has nothing to do with direct democracy.

    Under National Popular Vote, citizens would not rule directly but, instead, continue to elect the President by a majority of Electoral College votes, to represent them and conduct the business of government in the periods between elections.

  11. Lets Go Eat says:

    This is a bad idea for multiple reasons.

    First, all voters would not be created equal. Under the current system, a voter in Hershey or Philly or Clearfield all count equally. Under the Pileggi system, it wouldn’t matter if you win a district by 1 vote or 10,000. You’d still walk away with just one electoral vote.

    As mentioned above, it’s also politically foolish. If a candidate could only net one or two electoral votes in PA, the state would become irrelevant. Currently, we are a swing state that matters.

    This system would turn most of the state into Maryland or Utah on a micro-scale, places where your presidential vote doesn’t matter because one party always carries the vote.

  12. Piasor says:

    We are a republic, not a democracy. If National Popular Vote sways enough states to allow a president to be elected by receivingthe most popular votes, then democrats will need only to campaign in the 20-25 largest cities, since half the population lives there. We will become a democrat urbanocracy, a national Detroit. No thank you. As for oldgulph’s comments, it’s always rare to see a democratic presidential candidate campaign outside of Philadelphia or Pittsburgh. I can’t imagine that changing in any circumstance.

  13. oldgulph says:

    There is no concept of “too close to call” under National Popular Vote or the overwhelming number of other elections in the U.S. The candidate with the most votes win.

    Recounts are far more likely in the current system of state-by-state winner-take-all methods.

    The possibility of recounts should not even be a consideration in debating the merits of a national popular vote. No one has ever suggested that the possibility of a recount constitutes a valid reason why state governors or U.S. Senators, for example, should not be elected by a popular vote.

    The question of recounts comes to mind in connection with presidential elections only because the current system so frequently creates artificial crises and unnecessary disputes.

    A nationwide recount would not happen. We do and would vote state by state. Each state manages its own election and recount. The state-by-state winner-take-all system is not a firewall, but instead causes unnecessary fires.

    Given that there is a recount only once in about 160 statewide elections, and given there is a presidential election once every four years, one would expect a recount about once in 640 years under the National Popular Vote approach. The actual probability of a close national election would be even less than that because recounts are less likely with larger pools of votes.

    The average change in the margin of victory as a result of a statewide recount was a mere 296 votes in a 10-year study of 2,884 elections.

    No recount would have been warranted in any of the nation’s 56 previous presidential elections if the outcome had been based on the nationwide count.

    The 2000 presidential election was an artificial crisis created because of Bush’s lead of 537 popular votes in Florida. Gore’s nationwide lead was 537,179 popular votes (1,000 times larger). Given the miniscule number of votes that are changed by a typical statewide recount (averaging only 274 votes), no one would have requested a recount or disputed the results in 2000 if the national popular vote had controlled the outcome. Indeed, no one (except perhaps almanac writers and trivia buffs) would have cared that one of the candidates happened to have a 537-vote margin in Florida.

    The common nationwide date for meeting of the Electoral College has been set by federal law as the first Monday after the second Wednesday in December. Under both the current system and the National Popular Vote approach, all counting, recounting, and judicial proceedings must be conducted so as to reach a “final determination” prior to the meeting of the Electoral College. In particular, the U.S. Supreme Court has made it clear that the states are expected to make their “final determination” six days before the Electoral College meets.

  14. David Diano says:

    Such a change in electoral votes for PA, would take us from a key election state to an irrelevant state with a fraction of net electoral strength. This would weaken PA political strength nationally to that of a fly-over state.

  15. denny bonavita says:

    And if the margin of a national popular vote was 1? We’d be tied up in recounts for forever. The only way that should work is if the popular vote winner won by a given margin, say 0.5 percent. Otherwise, deem it too close to call and throw it to the House of Representatives.

  16. oldgulph says:

    A survey of 800 Pennsylvania voters conducted on December 16-17, 2008 showed 78% overall support for a national popular vote for President.
    Support was 87% among Democrats, 68% among Republicans, and 76% among independents.
    By age, support was 77% among 18-29 year olds, 73% among 30-45 year olds, 81% among 46-65 year olds, and 78% for those older than 65.
    By gender, support was 85% among women and 71% among men.

    The National Popular Vote bill would guarantee the Presidency to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states (and DC).

    Every vote, everywhere, would be politically relevant and equal in presidential elections.

    When the bill is enacted by states possessing a majority of the electoral votes– enough electoral votes to elect a President (270 of 538), all the electoral votes from the enacting states would be awarded to the presidential candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states and DC.

    The bill has passed 31 state legislative chambers in 21 small, medium-small, medium, and large states, including one house in AR, CT, DE, DC, ME, MI, NV, NM, NY, NC, and OR, and both houses in CA, CO, HI, IL, NJ, MD, MA ,RI, VT, and WA. The bill has been enacted by DC, HI, IL,CA, NJ, MD, MA, VT, and WA. These 9 jurisdictions possess 132 electoral votes– 49% of the 270 necessary to bring the law into effect.

    http://www.NationalPopularVote.com

  17. oldgulph says:

    Dividing Pennsylvania’s electoral votes by congressional district would magnify the worst features of the Electoral College system and not reflect the diversity of Pennsylvania.

    The district approach would provide less incentive for presidential candidates to campaign in all Pennsylvania districts and would not focus the candidates’ attention to issues of concern to the state as a whole. Candidates would have no reason to campaign in districts where they are comfortably ahead or hopelessly behind.

    Due to gerrymandering, in 2008, only 4 Pennsylvania congressional districts were competitive.

    In Maine, where they award electoral votes by congressional district, the closely divided 2nd congressional district received campaign events in 2008 (whereas Maine’s 1st reliably Democratic district was ignored).

    In Nebraska, which also uses the district method, the 2008 presidential campaigns did not pay the slightest attention to the people of Nebraska’s reliably Republican 1st and 3rd congressional districts because it was a foregone conclusion that McCain would win the most popular votes in both of those districts. The issues relevant to voters of the 2nd district (the Omaha area) mattered, while the (very different) issues relevant to the remaining (mostly rural) two-thirds of the state were irrelevant.

    When votes matter, presidential candidates vigorously solicit those voters. When votes don’t matter, they ignore those areas.

    Nationwide, there are only 55 “battleground” districts that are competitive in presidential elections. Seven-eighths of the nation’s congressional districts would be ignored if a district-level winner-take-all system were used nationally.

    If the district approach were used nationally, it would be less fair and less accurately reflect the will of the people than the current system. In 2004, Bush won 50.7% of the popular vote, but 59% of the districts. Although Bush lost the national popular vote in 2000, he won 55% of the country’s congressional districts.

    Because there are generally more close votes on district levels than states as whole, district elections increase the opportunity for error. The larger the voting base, the less opportunity there is for an especially close vote.

    Also, a second-place candidate could still win the White House without winning the national popular vote.

    A national popular vote is the way to make every person’s vote equal and guarantee that the candidate who gets the most votes in all 50 states becomes President.

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