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On The Road to the White House – PA Electoral College Vote Proposal


Pennsylvania State Senator Dominic Pileggi recently introduced a proposal to change the awarding of Pennsylvania’s allotted Electoral College votes in a Presidential General Election.  Currently, Pennsylvania employs a ‘winner take all’ strategy with her Electoral College Votes. The graphic above shows the distribution of election results from the 2008 Presidential general election. Barack Obama carried the state with 59% of the vote and was awarded all PA Electoral College votes. For those just coming up to speed with U.S. elections, the dark blue areas are districts where Obama garnered most of his winning 59 percentage points, the red areas of the state represent McCain Palin victories.

The image below gives a more detailed look at how the counties fell in 2008:


What is apparent in looking at both of these graphics is the defining role Allegheny and Philadelphia areas have in determining the winner of all of our State Electoral votes.

State Senator Pileggi’s proposal would amend the rules to have Electoral College (EC) votes awarded based on district vote winners. Two states, Maine and Nebraska, have adopted a similar EC vote rule.

Democrat State Senator Daylin Leach responded to this proposal  by labeling it as “an obscene, transparent, blatantly partisan change in the rules, designed for one purpose only; to help Republican Presidential candidates.”  If this proposal were active during the 2008 election, McCain would have been awarded 10 EC votes and Obama would have received 11. This change in the distribution of Electoral College votes would not have affected the outcome of the 2008 presidential election. Leach’s statement greatly stretches the potential effect of this change based on the evidence.

Opponents cite establishment GOP figures such as PA GOP Boss, Rob Gleason, expressing no confidence in State Senator Pileggi’s proposal.  PA GOP Boss, Rob Gleason is mentioned by Capital Wire’s DeCourseyGleason told advocates of this that after his party-building in Philadelphia and its suburbs, he expects to win all 20 of the state’s electoral votes for the GOP candidate. Excuse me? Did Gleason admit to party building in Philadelphia?  Recall, in 2008 Obama swept Philadelphia and her suburbs . November 2010, Grass root TeaParty groups, The Loyal Opposition and Americans For Prosperity brought in technology and boots on the ground which were instrumental in unseating several democrats from Congressional seats in the suburbs.  Yet again,evidence contradicts these opposing statements.

As a corollary to this proposal, California recently changed its awarding electoral college votes, giving them to the candidate who wins the popular vote.   Just imagine the implosion in California when they must award their EC votes to the conservative candidate.  Pushing that delicious image aside, California becomes the ninth state to give their EC votes to the candidate with the national popular vote. A quick look at population size of the nation’s largest cities and states and it becomes evident that simply using the popular vote to decide national races will leave the nations most densely populated areas – California and the Northeast to decide the winner.  It’s Pennsylvania on a national scale.

Pennsylvania is purple state, State Senator Pileggi’s proposal recognizes this reality and brings better representation of votes of the citizens of Pennsylvania. If one is to believe the prevailing polling winds regarding the 2012 Presidential election, Obama will be lucky to garner 1 EC vote in this state. Then again, if the polls are wrong and with no EC vote change, Obama walks away with Pennsylvania’s 20 EC votes.

Food for thought, indeed. Comments, thoughts, questions?

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4 responses to “On The Road to the White House – PA Electoral College Vote Proposal

  1. Friend

    http://www.presidentelect.org (use this for reference to any past presidential elections’ electoral vote results.)

    CA & PA are 2 different cases here. For CA practically speaking, I don’t see it changing the final outcome of many races. Assuming it remains a blue state, the only scenario in which this will matter is if the Republican has won the popular vote but lost the electoral college by 110 or less votes. In any other scenario, it won’t change the outcome. Looking at the last 3 elections, in 2000 & 2008 the electoral count would have remained the same & in 2004, it would have added another 55 electoral votes to Bush’s already winning 286 votes to give him 341.

    Now the PA one is pretty serious. I’m a believer in states’ rights and therefore prefer the present system over a popular vote system. In that context, one could argue that I should have a greater loyalty to the voice of a more direct locality like a congressional district. True…..if every state accepts that system. I wouldn’t mind if the electors were decided all over the country based on individual districts + the 2 bonus votes for each state whose popular vote the candidate wins. But given that PA would be only one of 3 states to apply this system for now (barring a domino effect), I see it more as an abandonment of the state’s power.

    As a battleground state, PA has a special privilege of getting more attention from candidates, which is always in our vested interest. So if Pileggi’s plan were implemented, you would no longer see any visits or attention given to the staunchly blue districts surrounding Philly or the staunchly red districts such as Joe Pitts’ district. You would only see minimal visits at best in the few swing districts in the state.

    So it’s certainly bad for PA but again in the interest of the nation as a whole, if most states were to adapt this system, it would be OK. While some staunchly covered districts would lose prominence, more STATES would receive attention. A candidate would actually campaign in portions of NY or TX that are swing districts.

    • Tania

      Let me start by thanking you for taking the time to write a well detailed response to my blog post. It was my expectation to use the post to build a civil, reasoned discussion around this issue facing Pennsylvania. It seems I’m off to a good start.

      You are correct in your assessment of California and Pennsylvania being different cases. Speaking of California, their 55 EC votes would not matter in the past 3 national elections as you have pointed out. However, California has joined eight other states in allocating their EC vote to the national popular vote. So, you cannot look at this as just 55 EC votes; California now represents 132 EC votes, nearly half of the 270 needed and that number will choose the next president.

      Pennsylvania is a purple state, not a battleground state. As a fellow believer in state rights, I would prefer the EC vote to reflect the true nature of the electorate. The Constitution allows states to allocate as they please, so it is up to each state to decide. I see this change and the current system we use as firewall against the National Popular Vote movement. Indeed, since Pennsylvania is in the ‘Blue Northeast’ and surrounded by states that have adopted NPV; the proposed change would force candidates to spend time in our state to jin up votes for the NPV states that surround us.

      I see this change as a win/win for the nation and the residents of Pennsylvania. IF you are to believe the prevailing polls, Obama is in deep trouble in Pennsylvania. Regardless of how we decided to award EC votes, both candidates will see Pennsylvania as a huge political opportunity. With either system in place, a candidate could very well walk away with double digit EC votes from Pennsylvania. This changes nothing, in my opinion, the impact Pennsylvania has on the overall EC vote. However, a strong GOTV in Pennsylvania could impact the fate of the EC votes of states signed on to the NPV. Friend, we are not called the Keystone State for nothing.

      I see Pennsylvania knee deep in politicians come 2012. Are you ready for it?

  2. Friend

    Oh, I’m ready! And I’m sure when they visit, you’ll be there as always holding their feet to the fire.

  3. Trish

    Thanks Tania, I have been trying to figure out besides the benefits to our party (with a majority AND a census change) what reasons not to adopt this new method of EC votes. However, I like it, and think that if the Dems were in control and could sway it even further their way, they definitely would. I expect they will whimper and whine about how it does benefit R’s, but at this point and under the latest class and partisanship warfare they have initiated, I say boohoo to you- let’s do this.

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