File photo: Sen. Chuck McIlhinney, R-Bucks, left and Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati, R-Jefferson, right, address a Rules Committee meeting with fellow lawmakers in working through details of a bill related to the state budget Thursday, June 30, 2011 in Harrisburg, Pa. (AP Photo/Bradley C Bower)
State Sen. Chuck McIlhinney (R.,Bucks) told constituents last week that he opposes a “poorly thought out” GOP bill to change the way Pennsylvania awards its presidential electoral votes from a winner-take-all to a proportional system.
The bill is sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi (R.,Delaware), who has 12 cosponsors for the measure. “I respect Sen. Pileggi a lot but I wouldn’t support it,” McIlhinney said, in a tape of a May 1 New Hope, Pa. town-hall meeting released by the liberal advocacy group People for the American Way.
Under Pileggi’s proposal, President Obama, who carried Pennsylvania with 52 percent of the vote to 47 percent for Republican Mitt Romney, would have received 12 of the state’s electoral votes to Romney’s eight.
McIlhinney said that the change would reduce the state’s influence relative to other large states that continued to award all of their electoral votes to the popular-vote winner, making Pennsyvlania as insignificant as Vermont in the strategic sense. He is a member of the Senate's State Government Committee, which would hear the legislation if it ever moves onto the action calendar.
“I could never see a presidential candidate ever getting more than 11 to 9, no matter who it is,” McIlhinney said in response to a woman’s question. “Because I am never going to see a candidate win 75 percent of the vote in Pennsylvania. So you could never even get more than 11 let alone 20 – which makes no sense to me whatsoever.”
Pileggi has said that the bill is not a priority agenda item for the Senate’s Republican majority, but Democrats and their allies have been campaigning against the proposal anyway, calling it an election “rigging” scheme that would reduce Pennsylvania’s power in presidential elections and dilute the voting strength of minorities.
People for the American Way volunteers have knocked on 3,000 doors in key state Senate districts and last month delivered to Gov. Corbett's office what the organization said were 100,000 signatures on a petition against the plan.
Corbett has not taking a position on it. “It’s time for the governor to step up and tell Pennsylvanians whether he sides with the best interests of the voters or with the interests of the Republican Party leadership," said Randy Borntrager, political director of PFAW.