A proposal by Pennsylvania Republicans to split the state’s electoral votes by Congressional districts — which could give the 2012 GOP nominee roughly 10 electoral votes even if they didn’t carry the state — isn’t just causing concern among national and Pennsylvania Democrats. It’s making some state Republicans nervous as well.
The Allentown Morning Call reports that some of the state’s Republican members of Congress in swing districts could in fact be endangered by the proposal.
A major reason? As things stand now in presidential elections, Democrats focus their get-out-the-vote efforts heavily in the urban stronghold of Philadelphia. But if the state’s presidential race changed from a one-person/one-vote system to one-district/one-vote, the impact of large numbers of Democratic voters in Philadelphia would become much less potent — and thus Dem GOTV energies would likely swift to suburban swing districts.
“I’m probably a little reluctant to be supportive of it…on political grounds,” Rep. Charlie Dent told the paper.
Another Republican from a swing district, Rep. Jim Gerlach, is on the fence for now. “I’d like to learn a little more about why they think that’s a good idea for the commonwealth,” Gerlach told the paper. “We’re going to talk about it as a delegation this week to get some sense of our members, what we think the pros and cons of that might be.”
“If I’m Jim Gerlach or Mike Fitzpatrick, I’m telling my allies in Harrisburg to push back against this with leadership,” said an unnamed Pennsylvania GOP consultant with ties to all four of the state’s southeast Republican congressmen, according to PoliticsPA.
In addition, the state news site Capitol Wire reports (paid subscription required), leading Republicans in the state, including state party chairman Rob Gleason (who has not publicly commented on the proposal) are pushing back against the bill — out of a belief that the Republicans could potentially carry the state in 2012, only to take electoral votes away from their own nominee.
Erik Arneson, spokesman for state Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi (R), told TPM that the bill will be formally introduced by the end of next week, and a public hearing by the Senate State Government Committee is expected for early October.
“You know, this is an idea that Senator Pileggi believes is a fair way to move forward,” said Arneson. “But yes, we have heard concerns raised from both sides of the aisle.”
When asked about objections by Democrats that the bill amounted to a partisan power-grab, Arneson said the bill was about making the election process fairer.
“First of all, Senator Pileggi’s focus is not on trying to predict the future in any way. It is on trying to give a voice to those voters in Pennsylvania who feel like that their choice for president has no impact at all, to more closely align electoral votes with the popular vote,” said Arneson.
“In terms of the 2012 election, you know, look, there’s no shortage of people who are predicting that a Republican candidate — and obviously it would depend on who that candidate is, how that campaign is run, and a million other variables we can’t begin to know — there’s no shortage of people who think a Republican candidate can, or is even likely, to win Pennsylvania in 2012. So Senator Pileggi’s goal is not to have a partisan impact here, but his goal is to align the electoral vote more closely to the popular vote.”
Would Pileggi recommend, TPM asked, that other states such as Texas, Georgia or Tennessee (which all vote Republican in presidential elections, but do have Democratic pockets) adopt a similar reform?
“I don’t believe he would presume that his perspective would have any influence other than in Pennsylvania,” Arneson replied.
Pennsylvania has voted Democratic in every presidential election since 1992, and voted for Barack Obama by 55%-44% in 2008. Indeed, over the past 50 years it has only voted Republican in presidential landslides for the GOP: 1972, 1980, 1984, and finally 1988. The last time Pennsylvania voted Republican during a close national race was 1948, when it picked Tom Dewey over the victorious Harry Truman.
While the results have sometimes been narrow for the Dems, it is a state that can be expected to vote Democratic for president in the context of a close national campaign, such as its votes for Al Gore in 2000 and John Kerry in 2004.
Had this proposed system been in place in 2008, when Obama won the state by a ten-point margin, he in fact would have only taken 11 out of the state’s 21 electoral votes at the time — due to a combination of past Republican-led redistricting efforts to maximize their district strength, and Obama’s votes being especially concentrated within urban areas.