Electoral College: Swing District GOP State Lawmakers on the Fence

By Ali Carey, Contributing Writer

The silence is deafening.

So far Democratic state legislators have denounced a plan to chop up Pennsylvania’s electoral votes and a handful of prominent Republicans have joined them.

Many more have declined to take a stance on the controversial issue.

The plan, proposed by Senate Majority Leader Dominic Peleggi (R-Delaware), would change PA from its current winner-take-all system to one in which electoral votes would be allocated by district.  Governor Tom Corbett reiterated his support of the idea on Saturday morning.

In southeast PA, where Republicans could expect tougher re-election campaigns under this plan, lawmakers are on the fence.

Republican State Senator Edwin Erickson (R-Delaware) is also unsure if the proposed changes to the electoral plan are the way to go.

“I have no firm opinion at this point.  I think it’s fascinating but I think we need to continue that discussion,” said Erickson.

Erickson admitted he has “no idea as to what will happen” and he reiterated that “we need to wait and see and consider all of the options.”

Erickson has not heard from his many of his constituents yet about their opinions of the possible changes, reporting that “most people who have said anything are those that have a stake in this whole issue.”

State Rep. Todd Stephens (R-Montgomery) told the Glenside News Globe Times Chronicle that he also needs to mull over the plan before making a decision for or against it.

“I think it’s intriguing and worth a closer look, but I’m not committed either way until I hear more information,” Stephens said. Noting concerns voiced by some congressional Republicans, he said he’d “like to hear from them,” and also see how it’s working in Nebraska.

“I think it’s important to make sure every Pennsylvanian’s vote is counted accurately and appropriately,” Stephens said.

PA Rep. Nick Miccarelli (R-Delaware) said he would vote for the plan, but doesn’t see a strong political advantage or disadvantage for southeast PA Republicans.

He represents one of the biggest “ticket-splitting” districts in PA. In 2008 the 162nd district went for Obama, however he was still able to win by 57 percent. He is confident voters will “pick the one they want.”

“I kind of have mixed emotions about it. I honestly think that as long as we get a good nominee we’re going to win PA anyway,” he said. “It could end up costing us a couple votes but on the whole in the past couple swing elections I guess it would have helped Pennsylvania.”

Indeed he says the heightened attention could be positive for the area.

“I do think those swing areas will be more targeted by those candidates.  That being the Southeast where more than 40% of those voters are cast and those are the swing areas so if it turns out to be that we get more attention from the national candidates from that, then I think that’s a good thing.”

Representative Jerry Knowles (R-Schuylkill) also wants to learn more about the proposed plan before making an official comment.

“I want to reserve judgement until I see the bill itself, but from what I’ve heard it’s a real simple bill,” said Knowles.

Republicans legislators might be very focused on the electoral plan, but according to Knowles his constituents are not.  Since the plan was announced last week, Knowles reported hearing from only 4 of his constituents.

“It doesn’t appear to me the number one issue of the people I represent,” said Knowles.

According to Sen. Daylin Leach (D-Montgomery/Delaware), the proposal is yet to be endorsed by national and Republican leaders, other than former Senator Rick Santorum, and and the Republican congressional delegation, “doesn’t like it.”

“I’m increasingly optimistic that we will be able to stop it,” Leach said.

The Pennsylvania Democrats also released a statement today with a list of Lancaster Republicans that have come out in opposition of the proposal, including Reps. Bryan Cutler, Scott Boyd, Ryan Aument, and Gordon Denlinger. Kate Harper (R-Montgomery) has also spoken out against it.

“I think it will make Pennsylvania less relevant.  We’re a big state.  I don’t see any reason to make changes in the rules,” said Harper.

According to a helpful whip count kept by Keep PA Relevant, a start-up group whose founder and organizer is anonymous, Rep. Scott Perry (R-York), and Rep. Will Tallmam (R-Adams/York) also oppose the proposal.

Keegan Gibson and Greta Fenzl contributed to this report.

2 Responses

  1. 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).

    Under National Popular Vote, every vote, everywhere, would be politically relevant and equal in every presidential election. Every vote would be included in the national count. The candidate with the most popular votes in all 50 states would get the 270+ electoral votes from the enacting states. That majority of electoral votes guarantees the candidate with the most popular votes in all 50 states wins the presidency.

    National Popular Vote would give a voice to the minority party voters in each state and district (in ME and NE). Now their votes are counted only for the candidate they did not vote for. Now they don’t matter to their candidate.

    With National Popular Vote, elections wouldn’t be about winning states or districts (in ME and NE). No more distorting and divisive red and blue state and district maps. Every vote, everywhere would be counted for and directly assist the candidate for whom it was cast.

    In Gallup polls since 1944, only about 20% of the public has supported the current system of awarding all of a state’s electoral votes to the presidential candidate who receives the most votes in each separate state (with about 70% opposed and about 10% undecided). The recent Washington Post, Kaiser Family Foundation, and Harvard University poll shows 72% support for direct nationwide election of the President. Support is strong in virtually every state, partisan, and demographic group surveyed iin recent polls in closely divided battleground states: CO– 68%, IA –75%, MI– 73%, MO– 70%, NH– 69%, NV– 72%, NM– 76%, NC– 74%, OH– 70%, PA — 78%, VA — 74%, and WI — 71%; in smaller states (3 to 5 electoral votes): AK – 70%, DC – 76%, DE –75%, ME — 77%, NE — 74%, NH –69%, NV — 72%, NM — 76%, RI — 74%, and VT — 75%; in Southern and border states: AR –80%, KY — 80%, MS –77%, MO — 70%, NC — 74%, and VA — 74%; and in other states polled: CA — 70%, CT — 74% , MA — 73%, MN – 75%, NY — 79%, WA — 77%, and WV- 81%.

    On Election Night, most voters don’t care whether their presidential candidate wins or loses in their state… they care whether he/she wins the White House. Voters want to know, that even if they were on the losing side, their vote actually was directly and equally counted and mattered to their candidate. Most Americans consider the idea of the candidate with the most popular votes being declared a loser detestable. We don’t allow this in any other election in our representative republic.

    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 (3), HI (4), IL (19), NJ (14), MD (11), MA (10), CA (55), VT (3), and WA (13). These 9 jurisdicti­ons possess 132 electoral votes — 49% of the 270 necessary to bring the law into effect.


  2. Republican legislators seem quite “confused” about the merits of the congressional district method. The leadership committee of the Nebraska Republican Party just adopted a resolution requiring all GOP elected officials to favor overturning their district method for awarding electoral votes or lose the party’s support. While in Pennsylvania, Republican legislators insist we must change from the winner-take-all method to the district method.

    And up in Maine, the only other state beside Nebraska to use the district method, Mike Tipping reports on Republicans, also newly in the majority like their counterparts in Pennsylvania. Earlier this year, Republican leaders in Maine proposed and passed a constitutional amendment that, if passed at referendum, will require a 2/3rds vote in all future redistricting decisions. Now they want to pass a majority-only plan.

    Dividing Pennsylvania’s electoral votes by district would magnify the worst features of the 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 whole state. 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 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) 2/3rds 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. 88% 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.

    Awarding electoral votes by congressional district could result in third party candidates winning electoral votes that would deny either major party candidate the necessary majority vote of electors and throw the process into Congress to decide.

    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 matter to their candidate because it guarantees that the candidate who gets the most votes in all 50 states becomes President.

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