TPM reports:

Pennsylvania Republicans are planning to change the state’s way of apportioning electoral college votes, getting rid of winner take all. Since Dems usually win Pennsylvania that would have the effect of neutralizing the state in the Electoral College. And it could have a big effect on the outcome of next year’s election.

I guess I can’t blame them, as they’re doing what parties do. The bigger problem here is that letting states determine their own standards for how to award votes makes absolutely no sense. The usual argument for federalism relies on the idea that the peculiarities of individual locals demand different rules and approaches, which I think is basically bollocks since mass media leveled most geographic differences among Americans decades ago. But this isn’t that. To a large extent, our electoral system is severely antiquated and based on a vision of the United States that hasn’t existed for ages, and it is largely run by norms that are no longer respected. In each election, the parties (okay, for the most part, Republicans) push the boundaries of our electoral system further and further for their own gain, and there’s only so much you can do before the whole thing collapses.

I wonder if they’ll actually follow through on this. It’s a pretty transparently partisan stunt, and it strikes me as the sort of thing that Washington opinionmakers might really find offensive, as they tend to support the electoral college concept just because. Then again, Tom DeLay’s redistricting plans went through despite fairly robust elite condemnation. Of course, this will last until Democrats retake the state’s government, and it could (and probably will) damage the GOP in the state and rally Democrats if it happens, but we all know that Republicans are putting everything they can into winning in 2012, regardless of long-term damage. They’re that desperate.

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  1. toto says:

    Unable to agree on any particular method, the Founding Fathers left the choice of method for selecting presidential electors exclusively to the states by adopting the language contained in section 1 of Article II of the U.S. Constitution-- “Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors . . .” The U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly characterized the authority of the state legislatures over the manner of awarding their electoral votes as “plenary” and “exclusive.”

    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. There would no longer be ‘battleground’ states where voters and policies are more important than those of other states.

    When the bill is enacted by states possessing 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 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.

    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.

    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 is strong among Republican voters, Democratic voters, and independent voters, as well as every demographic group surveyed in virtually every state surveyed in recent polls in 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 smaller 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: 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 get elected.

    The bill has passed 31 state legislative chambers in 21 small, medium-small, medium, and large states, including one house in AR, CT, DE, DC, ME, MI, NV, NM, NY, NC, and OR, and both houses in CA, CO, HI, IL, NJ, MD, MA ,RI, VT, and WA. The bill has been enacted by DC, HI, IL, CA, NJ, MD, MA, VT, and WA. These 9 jurisdictions possess 132 electoral votes-- 49% of the 270 necessary to bring the law into effect.

  2. toto says:

    Republican legislators seem quite “confused” about the merits of the congressional district method. In Nebraska, Republican legislators are now saying they must change from the congressional district method to go back to state winner-take-all, while in Pennsylvania, Republican legislators are just as strongly arguing that they must change from the winner-take-all method to the congressional district method.

    Dividing Pennsylvania’s electoral votes by congressional district would magnify the worst features of the Electoral College system and not reflect the diversity of Pennsylvania.

    The district approach would provide less incentive for presidential candidates to campaign in all Pennsylvania districts and would not focus the candidates’ attention to issues of concern to the state as a whole. Candidates would have no reason to campaign in districts where they are comfortably ahead or hopelessly behind.

    Due to gerrymandering, in 2008, only 4 Pennsylvania congressional districts were competitive.

    In Maine, where they award electoral votes by congressional district, the closely divided 2nd congressional district received campaign events in 2008 (whereas Maine’s 1st reliably Democratic district was ignored).

    In Nebraska, which also uses the district method, the 2008 presidential campaigns did not pay the slightest attention to the people of Nebraska’s reliably Republican 1st and 3rd congressional districts because it was a foregone conclusion that McCain would win the most popular votes in both of those districts. The issues relevant to voters of the 2nd district (the Omaha area) mattered, while the (very different) issues relevant to the remaining (mostly rural) two-thirds of the state were irrelevant.

    When votes matter, presidential candidates vigorously solicit those voters. When votes don’t matter, they ignore those areas.

    Nationwide, there are only 55 “battleground” districts that are competitive in presidential elections. Seven-eighths of the nation’s congressional districts would be ignored if a district-level winner-take-all system were used nationally.

    If the district approach were used nationally, it would be less fair and less accurately reflect the will of the people than the current system. In 2004, Bush won 50.7% of the popular vote, but 59% of the districts. Although Bush lost the national popular vote in 2000, he won 55% of the country’s congressional districts.

    Because there are generally more close votes on district levels than states as whole, district elections increase the opportunity for error. The larger the voting base, the less opportunity there is for an especially close vote.

    Also, a second-place candidate could still win the White House without winning the national popular vote.

    A national popular vote is the way to make every person’s vote equal and guarantee that the candidate who gets the most votes in all 50 states becomes President.

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