National Republicans Support Pennsylvania Vote-Rigging Bill

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A tear-stained idea we mentioned earlier this month as being in the memorandum stage — which would divide Pennsylvania’s electoral votes in future presidential elections by Congressional district — grew up this week and has become a full-blown bill. It was introduced Monday and its intent is to make sure your vote means less in 2016 than it ever has, because Republicans are tired of losing.

According to the bill’s single page of language (it’s co-sponsored by Reps. Godshall, Grove, Kauffman, C. Harris, Barrar, Emrick and Moul, all Republicans), in presidential elections, “Two of the presidential electors shall be elected at large to represent the entire Commonwealth and shall cast their ballots for the presidential and vice-presidential candidates with the greatest number of votes Statewide.” It goes on: “Each of the remaining presidential electors shall be elected in the presidential elector’s congressional district and shall cast a ballot for the presidential and vice-presidential candidates with the greatest number of votes in the congressional district.”

That means whoever wins the solid majority of voters in Pennsylvania during a presidential election automatically gets two at-large votes  (represented by Sens. Casey and Toomey) of the state’s 20. The rest of the votes would be split by congressional district. In other words — and to reiterate what we’ve noted in the past — the Republican presidential candidate can very easily lose the popular vote and end up with more Pennsylvania electoral votes than the Democrat. That’s what would have happened in the 2012 election if the proposed rules had been in place.

Here's a county-by-county breakdown of partisan voting in the 2008 presidential election, to show geographical reality...

(Figure 1.)

After the 2010 elections, when Republicans took massive control of the House of Representatives (and many governorships and state legislatures), they were easily able to re-draw the boundaries of U.S. congressional districts according to the new census numbers — and according to their own preferences to make sure former “purple” swing districts would become blood-red by shuffling around Republican-heavy voting areas into districts where they’d have the most impact. That’s how a majority of Pennsylvanians voted for Democrats in our state’s U.S. House races, yet headed into 2013 with 13 Republicans and 5 Democrats representing us in Washington. (A new Republican State Leadership Committee report touts this strategy as a good thing.)

...and here's how the congressional districts were drawn in 2010 by the newly elected Republican legislature.

(Figure 2.)

Let’s look visually at how this works. Figure 1, to the right, shows a county-by-county breakdown of partisan results in the 2008 presidential election, thus approximating geopolitical reality. (An even more nuanced version is available at The New York Times.) Figure 2, below it, is how the congressional districts were drawn in 2010 by the newly elected Republican legislature. See? Now all those Democratic votes contribute to the state total… but don’t have the same impact at the district level. The new Republican bill, in effect, would tear down the unified political impact of the state of Pennsylvania upon presidential elections in order to give piecemeal power to its (gerrymandered) individual districts.

A similar bill was introduced last year by State Sen. Dominic Pileggi, but was quickly removed from consideration (unofficially) when the state Republican Party decided it would be too controversial to so blatantly steal electoral votes during an actual election year — especially since they were already attempting to block the urban vote with new voter-ID rules. Well, it’s no longer an election year. And the reality is, Republicans can probably get this passed if they’re determined to. They have the numbers, the governorship — and, in that governorship, a highly partisan leader who went on record in support of the original 2012 version of the bill.

Republican National Committee chair Reince Priebus has endorsed the idea. And no wonder: Nationally, Republicans have lost the majority of votes in five of the past six national elections. If every state adopted this legislation, Republicans would win the next presidential election easily; the gerrymandering they did in 2010 wasn’t unique to Pennsylvania. Several states, including Michigan and Ohio, experienced similar vote counts in the 2012 elections, with President Obama winning a majority of the state vote but a minority of congressional districts.

Democrats, for their part, aren’t taking it sitting down. During an “Ask Me Anything” chat on Reddit earlier this week, State Sen, Daylin Leach (D-Montgomery) noted he has a plan to deal with this. Eventually.

“I have a bill on this,” he told Reddit user ‘Salacious,’ who asked him about how redistricting and gerrymandering could be resolved. “Creates a Commission with a super-majority needed to pass a plan. What’s unique about my plan is that it has a mathamatical [sic] formula whereby any district drawn has to fill in 15% of a circle around the district. This prevents districts shaped like salamanders, or the 7th Congressional District in PA, which makes a salamander look like a perfect circle.” Which makes sense. But that legislation wouldn’t be useful until after the 2020 elections.

3 Responses to “ National Republicans Support Pennsylvania Vote-Rigging Bill ”

  1. oldgulph says:

    Enacting the National Popular Vote makes sense, can go into effect for 2016, and has the support of Pennsylvania voters.

    A survey of Pennsylvania voters 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.

    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. No more distorting and divisive red and blue state maps. There would no longer be a handful of ‘battleground’ states where voters and policies are more important than those of the voters in 80% of the states that now are just ’spectators’ and ignored after the conventions.

    When the bill is enacted by states with 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 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.

    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 for a national popular vote is strong among Republicans, Democrats, and Independent voters, as well as every demographic group in virtually every state surveyed in recent polls in recent 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 Small 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: AZ – 67%, 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 win.

    The bill has passed 31 state legislative chambers in 21 states with 243 electoral votes. The bill has been enacted by 9 jurisdictions with 132 electoral votes – 49% of the 270 necessary to go into effect.

    NationalPopularVote
    Follow National Popular Vote on Facebook via NationalPopularVoteInc

  2. [...] are states that went for President Obama in both 2008 and 2012: Virginia, Michigan, Florida, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Ohio, and Washington. And no, Republicans are not being subtle about their intentions. [...]

  3. [...] had considered such plans, and the national GOP (seeing the writing on the wall) has taken to considering them, for nothing else, to stay alive in a political landscape many in the party stubbornly refuse to [...]

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