They just won't quit, will they? The New Castle News (where I get most of my information these days*) is reporting that Harrisburg legislative powerhouse Sen. Dominic Pileggi has yet another scheme in which Pennsylvania would award a number of electoral votes to the losing candidate under a system not used in any of the other 49 states.
As you may know, the losing candidate in every presidential election in Pennsylvania since 1988 has been a Republican. In 2012, President Obama got just under 52 percent of the popular vote and all 20 electoral votes. That's because Pennsylvania -- like 47 other states and D.C. -- awards those electoral votes on a winner-take-all basis. (Two smaller states -- Nebraska and Maine -- award some of their votes by individual congressional district.)
At this particular quirky moment in American history, there are a surprising number of states that have Republican legislatures and governors but are trending solidly Democratic for president, including Wisconsin, Michigan, Virginia, Florida...and Pennsylvania. As if by magic, lawmakers in each of these states showed up for the new year with schemes to pick presidential electors on a variation of the Maine-Nebraska method. Because the Democratic vote has been so overwhelming in some urban congressional districts, with the Republicans winning more suburban and rural districts by by smaller margins, the swing in electoral votes could be dramatic.
In Pennsylvania, a change proposed by some GOP lawmakers last month would have given 2012's Mitt Romney 12 of the 20 state electoral votes, despite garnering just 47 percent of the popular ballot. Similar schemes were reduced in other key states...and then something remarkable happened.
Procedurally, the only thing that could have stopped such legislation was a sense of decency, at long last, and many key Republicans looked at this scheme and couldn't stomach it -- even GOP die-hards like Wisconsin's Paul Ryan and Governors Rick Scott (Fla.) and Bob McDonnell (Va.) In Pennsylvania, the scheme also faltered because some powerful Republican swing district congressmen feared that forcing the 2016 Democratic White House hopeful to intensely compete for an electoral vote in their home district could cause them to lose.
So comes now Pileggi with Plan B. The district scheme is out; instead, electoral votes would be awarded proportionally, guaranteeing the loser would pick up some free tallies that he or she would not have received under the systems used by every other state. In 2012, loser Romney would have received 8 of the 20 electoral votes. Last year, that would not have made a difference. In 2016, in a closer race....who knows?
Last night, a Democratic state lawmaker, Rep. Mike Sturia, told the website Think Progress that Pileggi, his legislative allies and Gov. Corbett could all but click their heels and make this thing the law of the land in just four days:
They could have it out of the House in three days and it could go over to the Senate and they could have it out of there in three days and it could go to the governor’s office and he could sign it. . . . The Senate can suspend the rules and have it passed in less than 24 hours. [The House] has to have a 2/3s majority to suspend the rules so usually we can at least make them do the three days.
Call me a crazy optimist, but I'm betting in the end this won't happen. I sure hope it doesn't. For one thing, Pennsylvania has way too many problems -- falling bridges and failing schools come to mind -- to waste valable hours on this election-stealing nonsense. In the bigger picture -- and I doubt this could happen -- I would love to see an amendment to ensure that federal elections are governed by one federal set of rules. That's just common sense -- imagine the fan outcry if the NFL used a different rulebook for games played in Louisiana than it did for contests in Maryland. If pro football can do it, why can't America.
Creating a system to elect the president should be guided by fairness and logic.
Pennsylvania's grade so far is "incomplete."