The Pennsylvania GOP is – once again – trying to make a concerted effort to change how our democracy functions so future Republican presidential candidates can win the commonwealth, and the idea has been endorsed by the Republican National Committee. Last year in Pennsylvania and around the country, governors and republican controlled state legislatures in traditional blue states tried to push through a wave of Voter ID bills and changed early voting hours in an attempt to surpress the vote. After Governor Corbett signed Pennsylvania’s Voter ID, the prevailing thought was that Mitt Romney was going to win Pennsylvania and other states that went through the same voter suppression procedures. As November proved, that was not the case for the GOP, and since the Republicans weren’t able to win the election through voter suppression methods, they are going to just change the way electoral votes are counted and distributed to win in 2016 and future elections.
This wasn’t the first time the state has flirted with this option. After the Pennsylvania Assembly of Governor Corbett approved the commonwealth’s newly gerrymandered Congressional districts, Governor Tom Corbett and State Senator Dominic Pileggi proposed a bill that would reform the way the state distributes its electoral college votes. Instead of a “Winner Take All” system, where the winner of the statewide vote would take all of the electoral votes, their plan would have distributed votes based upon the total number of Congressional districts that candidate won with 2 extra votes going to who won the statewide vote. In Pennsylvania, the effects of this reform would have been obvious. For instance, in 2008, President Obama won the statewide race by 10 percentage points, but because of this proposal and the newly gerrymandered districts, Obama would have won 11 of 21 electoral votes – 9 votes coming from the electoral districts he won, plus the 2 “at large” votes for winning the statewide vote.
A little less than a month after November’s election, Senator Pileggi introduced another plan to reform the electoral college. Instead of dividing the electoral college votes upon what candidate wins how many electoral districts, Senator Pileggi decided that his latest attack on democracy would use arithmetic to distribute Pennsylvania’s 20 votes “proportionally” among the candidates. Since Obama won Pennsylvania with 52% of the vote, the plan would give – or distribute -52% of the electoral votes to Obama – thus giving Obama 12 out of 20 electoral votes. In a statement to defend this reform, Senator Pileggi claimed “Pennsylvania uses a winner-take-all system of awarding electoral votes. My legislation would allocate electoral votes proportionately,” and “[the] advantage of this system is clear: It much more accurately reflects the will of the voters in our state.” Critics of the bill attacked the obvious fact that in order to win future elections in Pennsylvania – and around the country – Republicans will have to rig the system rather than run competent candidates. State Senator Daylin Leach told the Philadelphia Daily News “[t]he remedy for losing an election is not to change the rules of that election, but to offer more compelling candidates who actually have a compelling message.”
On the national level, the Republican National Committee is gearing up to push electoral college reforms that are similar to Senator Pileggi’s in traditional Blue states that are in the same situation as Pennsylvania. A recently released ThinkProgress article “RNC Chair: Rig The Next Presidential Election For Republicans” pointed out that if Florida, Michigan, Ohio, Virginia and Wisconsin passed this type of law, Romney would have won the Electoral College even though he lost the popular vote by 4%. The question remains, is Senator Pileggi taking his marching orders from RNC Chairman Reince Priebus? In an interview with the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, Reince Priebus endorsed the idea and said “I think it’s something that a lot of states that have been consistently blue that are fully controlled red ought to be looking at.”
Sean Kitchen is an Assistant Editor and Social Media Organizer for Raging Chicken Press. He is student at Kutztown University