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Ear to the Ground

Pennsylvania Monkeys With the Electoral Vote

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Posted on Sep 14, 2011
White House / Pete Souza

Pennsylvania Republicans may have found a new way to gerrymander the 2012 presidential election in the GOP’s favor with a plan involving a shift in the rules that govern how votes are awarded in the electoral college. Rather than award all of the state’s electoral votes to the candidate who wins the popular vote—as is done in most states—Republicans want to set up a system in which each congressional district casts its own electoral vote. Two votes, representing the state’s two U.S. senators, would go to the winner of the popular vote.

Under this plan, even if Obama won the popular vote in the state, he could expect to lose the electoral votes of GOP-leaning districts. In other words, no change in the intensity of campaigning or the amount of money spent would be necessary for Republicans to win the votes.

The new rules are likely to matter only in a narrow race. With both houses of the Pennsylvanian Legislature under GOP control and the U.S. Constitution virtually silent about how states chose their electors, there seems to be little standing in the way of the Republicans, who could go on to push for the new rules elsewhere.

To grasp this complicated issue, click through to the full article below. —ARK

Mother Jones:

Each state gets to determine how its electoral votes are allocated. Currently, 48 states and DC use a winner-take-all system in which the candidate who wins the popular vote in the state gets all of its electoral votes. Under the Republican plan—which has been endorsed by top Republicans in both houses of the state’s legislature, as well as the governor, Tom Corbett—Pennsylvania would change from this system to one where each congressional district gets its own electoral vote. (Two electoral votes—one for each of the state’s two senators—would go to the statewide winner.)

This could cost Obama dearly. The GOP controls both houses of the state legislature plus the governor’s mansion—the so-called “redistricting trifecta”—in Pennsylvania. Congressional district maps are adjusted after every census, and the last one just finished up. That means Pennsylvania Republicans get to draw the boundaries of the state’s congressional districts without any input from Democrats. Some of the early maps have leaked to the press, and Democrats expect that the Pennsylvania congressional map for the 2012 elections will have 12 safe GOP seats compared to just 6 safe Democratic seats.

Under the Republican plan, if the GOP presidential nominee carries the GOP-leaning districts but Obama carries the state, the GOP nominee would get 12 electoral votes out of Pennsylvania, but Obama would only get eight—six for winning the blue districts, and two (representing the state’s two senators) for winning the state. Since Obama would lose 12 electoral votes relative to the winner-take-all baseline, this would have an effect equivalent to flipping a medium-sized winner-take-all state—say, Washington, which has 12 electoral votes—from blue to red.* And Republicans wouldn’t even have to do any extra campaigning or spend any extra advertising dollars to do it.

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By Recce1, September 16, 2011 at 12:34 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I don’t understand the progressive Democratic stand on this issue. Under
several state plans proposed by Democrats the majority of voters in a state
could be completely disenfranchised. That’s democracy? So why oppose
allowing electoral votes being apportioned according to congressional district

Under the National Popular Vote plan proposed by Democrats, say in a national
election candidate A won the popular vote by a 49.2% margin against candidate
B who got 49.1% of the popular vote. But say in Texas candidate B won the
popular vote by a 70% to 30% landslide which under our current Electoral
College system gave B the Electoral College victory. Under the Democrat’s
proposal all of Texas’ vote would go to candidate A rather than B giving A the
Electoral College victory. Why should Texas then stay in the Union knowing all
its votes were given to the candidate who overwhelming lost in Texas? By the
way, this is the plan Democrats are proposing in California.

This bill is simply meant to allow candidates to concentrate in only several key
populous states and to ignore the majority of states. However, we’re not a
parliamentary democracy in which the Federal government created the states.
Rather, we’re a Republic in which the sovereign States created and limited the
federal government. The Constitution guarantees every State a republican form
of government. Let’s leave it that way.

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By kohler, September 14, 2011 at 10:16 pm Link to this comment

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. Elections
wouldn’t be about winning states. Every vote,
everywhere would be counted for and directly assist
the candidate for whom it was cast. States have the
responsibility and power to make their voters
relevant in every presidential election. Candidates
would need to care about voters across the nation,
not just undecided voters in the current handful of
swing states.

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 presidential election system that we have today
was not designed, anticipated, or favored by the
Founding Fathers but, instead, is the product of
decades of evolutionary change precipitated by the
emergence of political parties and enactment by 48
states of winner-take-all laws, not mentioned, much
less endorsed, in the Constitution.

The bill uses the exclusive power given to each state
by the Founding Fathers in the Constitution to change
how they award their electoral votes for
president.Historically, virtually all of the major
changes in the method of electing the President,
including ending the requirement that only men who
owned substantial property could vote and 48 current
state-by-state winner-take-all laws, have come about
by state legislative action.

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.

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). Support is strong among Republican
voters, Democratic voters, and independent voters, as
well as every demographic group surveyed in virtually
every state surveyed in recent polls in closely
divided battleground states: CO - 68%, FL - 78%, 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%, ID - 77%, ME - 77%, MT - 72%, NE
74%, NH - 69%, NV - 72%, NM - 76%, OK - 81%, RI -
74%, SD - 71%, UT - 70%, VT - 75%, WV - 81%, and WY -
69%; in Southern and border states: AR - 80%,, KY-
80%, MS - 77%, MO - 70%, NC - 74%, OK - 81%, SC -
71%, TN - 83%, VA - 74%, and WV - 81%; and in other
states polled: CA - 70%, CT - 74%, MA - 73%, MN -
75%, NY - 79%, OR - 76%, and WA - 77%. Americans
believe that the candidate who receives the most
votes should get elected.

The National Popular Vote 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.

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By toto, September 14, 2011 at 10:08 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Republican legislators seem quite “confused” about
the merits of the congressional district method. In
Nebraska, Republican legislators are now saying they
must change from the congressional district method to
go back to state winner-take-all, while in
Pennsylvania, Republican legislators are just as
strongly arguing that they must change from the
winner-take-all method to the congressional district

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

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

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

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By Rodney, September 14, 2011 at 7:25 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

If you cant win it, steal it. 2000 all over again

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By diamond, September 14, 2011 at 3:29 pm Link to this comment

The only way to stop the Republicans stealing any election is for everyone to turn out to vote. The Democrats have 20 million more registered voters than the Republicans and on the face of it should win most elections. The Republicans have certain weapons against that fact: lies, fear, fake patriotism, a servile, tame media that pushes propaganda for them day and night, and the apathy of the voter who decides to have a hissy fit because of that propaganda and not vote. Voter turnout was very high in the election Obama won because the voters badly wanted to get rid of the Republicans. I can’t imagine why. Now, to neutralize high voter turnout, the Republicans have turned to fiddling with the system itself. The electoral college system itself is a conservative fix which favors the right and always has.

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By Marian Griffith, September 14, 2011 at 1:42 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

All of this only goes to once again proof that any voting system that includes districts and winner takes all principles are just another way where political parties can skew the results to what they want instead of what the voters want.

The only reasonable solution would be to do away with electoral colleges, district votes and similar prehistoric notions entirely and instead adopt a nation wide popular vote. That way you can be sure that the president represents the majority of the population, and not the party that was best at twisting the results into what suited them.

Next disconnect elections from congress members from both the presidential one and the state ones. Any party can present a candidate list and if it receives 10pct of the votes it gets to appoint 10pct of the members of congress. I would recommend a election threshold of 5pct though or you might get too many parties to allow for workable negotiations.
Then do the same for the election of senators, and put each of them on a 6 year cycle, with an election every 2 years, and you just might end up with a situation where you have a viable third and fourth party in the house of representatives.

Not going to happen of course, as the current system is far to profitable for the two political parties to exploit. And, as Mother Jones points out, if this proposal gets accepted the republican party is only one or two elections away from achieving that one-party state that was Karl Rove’s stated goal.

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By English Premier League, September 14, 2011 at 12:22 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

still obama is a president….of america

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By English Premier League, September 14, 2011 at 12:21 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

still obama is a president….

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