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January 30, 2013

Pa. Senate leader to propose modifying electoral vote tally

HARRISBURG — State Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi, R-Chester, will introduce legislation in February that would change the way the state’s Electoral College votes are awarded, but the senator’s office said the issue does not seem to be a top priority in Pennsylvania, where there are many other looming issues.

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

Obama won the popular vote with 65.9 million votes, or 51.1 percent, to 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 by awarding them 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 was 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, since Obama won over 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.

 “This advantage of this system is clear: It much more accurately reflects the will of the voters in our state,” Pileggi said in the memo to other lawmakers.

While the legislation will be introduced shortly, “This is not something that is a top priority for him at the start of this session – 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,” Arneson said.

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

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