New Castle News

February 2, 2013

State lawmakers to look at Electoral College

John Finnerty

HARRISBURG — Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi will introduce legislation this month that would change the way the state’s Electoral College votes are awarded.

But the office of the Chester County Republican said it does not seem to be a top priority in Pennsylvania, where other issues are looming.

The issue comes as Republican lawmakers across the country push for similar changes in the way Electoral College votes are awarded.

Barack Obama won the popular vote with 65.9 million votes, or 51.1 percent, to Mitt Romney’s 60.9 million and won the Electoral College by a wide margin, 332-206 electoral votes.

If every state awarded its electoral votes by congressional districts, Romney would have won by a 276-262 margin, despite Obama’s popular vote margin, David Wasserman, the nonpartisan Cook Political Report’s House expert, calculated.

A House version of the electoral college vote allocation legislation would award Electoral College votes using the formula based on the popular vote in each congressional district. Pileggi’s version of the legislation has ditched the congressional district piece and would award the electoral votes simply as a percentage of the popular vote.

The difference is significant.

In the last election, if the electoral votes had been directly tied to the congressional district popular vote, Romney would have received more electoral votes in Pennsylvania than Obama, even though the president won the popular vote.

Romney received more votes in 54 of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties and, as a result, in 12 of the 18 congressional districts.

Under Pileggi’s new plan, Obama would have had more electoral votes.

“Senator Pileggi introduced legislation last session that would have used the district model. After hearing from numerous people with concerns about tying the distribution of electors to congressional districts, he decided that it makes sense to completely separate the issue of electoral distribution from the issue of how congressional districts are drawn,” said Erik Arneson, a Pileggi spokesman.

The League of Women Voters is among the organizations that objected to directly connecting the electoral votes to the results in congressional districts.

And the reason is simple, said Lora Lavin of the Pennsylvania League of Women Voters.

“Gerrymandering,” she said. “The results in the congressional districts would not reflect the will of the people.”

In a memo sent to other lawmakers, Pileggi said that under his proportional plan, because Obama won more than 52 percent of the popular vote, he would have received 12 electoral votes — 10 of the 18 associated with congressional districts, plus the two statewide votes.

While the legislation will be introduced shortly, “This is not something that is a top priority for him at the start of this session,” Arneson said, “rather, he views it as an important idea to discuss as part of the ongoing debate about the Electoral College and whether it should be changed or even eliminated.”

Lavin said the League of Women Voters does not endorse Pileggi’s newest plan, saying the organization would rather see a more nation-wide push to replace the electoral college with results based on the popular vote.