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
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.
White House / Pete Souza