PA Republicans Ripped for Hosting Virginia Governor at Lincoln Dinner

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Virginia governor Bob McDonnell was in Pennsylvania on Friday to speak with the local Republican Party for their Lincoln Dinner and plenty of opposition party members had reason to question why that was the case.

For one, McDonnell had instituted something in his home state in 2010 called “Confederate History Month,” meant to “understand the sacrifices of the Confederate leaders, soldiers and citizens during the period of the Civil War.” It, therefore, seemed a bit off—if not inappropriate—that Pennsylvania Republicans had chosen him, of all people, to speak at a Lincoln Day Dinner.

Jake Sternberger at Keystone Politics deadpanned that McDonnell had been chosen “in order to bridge the gap between the goals and ideals of Abraham Lincoln and the misunderstood merits of Slaveocracy,” before noting McDonnell had also supported several pieces of strange anti-abortion legislation, including transvaginal probes and Personhood.

But Pennsylvania Democrats in the Capitol had another aspect of McDonnell’s visit on their mind—namely, something that made him less partisan than those to whom he’d planned on speaking: That silly gerrymandering bill that’d hand out electoral college votes by Congressional district instead of the winner-take-all system we’ve used for more than 200 years.

It was revealed last week that Virginia’s own gerrymandering proposal to give Republicans a shot at winning the 2016 election had been rejected by McDonnell and Virginia Republicans, who, like Pennsylvania’s right wing, own a majority of Legislature seats and the governor’s mansion—but lost the last presidential election (and the one before that).

And like Pennsylvania, a by-Congressional district plan would have handed a majority of that state’s electoral votes to Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan during the 2012 elections.

“One of the things that constantly plays in my head when I hear this plan is Mike Turzai’s comments last year to the state house when he was talking about Voter ID,” State Rep. Brian Sims (D-Philadelphia) tells Philadelphia Weekly. “He didn’t talk about how it would protect voters; he didn’t talk about protecting the integrity of the system; he talked about creating a bill that was going to allow Mitt Romney to win Pennsylvania. And that’s all that this bill is. It has nothing to do with increasing voter turnout. This has nothing to do with the integrity of elections. This has everything to do with simply trying to take Pennsylvania off the electoral map for Democrats.”

There are a few bills being introduced in the Legislature this year that would change the way presidential elections are held. The first was floated by State Sen. Dominic Pileggi, and his bill would divide electoral college votes in Pennsylvania by percentage. A more radical version of the bill is the Godshall-Grove proposal in the state House. That bill would divide Pennsylvania’s vote by Congressional district. Pennsylvania remains the only state in which such a bill is still being considered, although it’s been introduced in almost every so-called ‘swing state,’ including Michigan, Wisconsin and Ohio. Pileggi’s plan is more likely to move in the Capitol.

According to a report recently put up by PoliticsPA, President Barack Obama actually lost 13 of 18 Congressional districts—which would mean, according to the plan, he’d have taken only seven of 18 electoral votes in Pennsylvania, despite winning by 5.4 percent in the commonwealth. Pennsylvania Democrats put together a press conference to respond both to these bills and McDonnell’s appearance before the state party on Friday.

“For 225 years, politicians of both parties have resisted the urge to use a temporary hold on power to rig future elections, until now. It’s time for Governor Corbett to join Governor McDonnell of Virginia — who is the guest of honor at the Pennsylvania GOP’s dinner tonight — in repudiating this obscene plan to highjack our democracy,” said State Sen. Daylin Leach during the Friday press conference.

He was joined by State Rep. Mike Sturla, Chairman Jim Burn and State Sen. Vincent Hughes. Said Hughes: “The Republicans in the House and Senate could ram this legislation through both houses in a matter of days once it’s introduced. The House could pass it in three days and the Senate could ram it through in as little as 24 hours. They know they can’t win on the issues, so they’re resorting to underhanded tactics and undermining the majority of voters in Pennsylvania. Voters in Pennsylvania don’t send us to Harrisburg to rig elections. This is just another example of the misplaced priorities of Governor Corbett and the Republican Party that have made things more difficult for Pennsylvania.”

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