Monday, August 3, 2015

PA Electoral Plan Goes National

That GOP plan to redistribute electoral votes among congressional districts got the attention of MSNBC last night.

PA Electoral Plan Goes National


Let me start by noting I am not a fan of cable TV news and its endless, usually one-sided political reporting. So I was not watching Rachel Maddow on MSNBC last night -- because I never do.

But someone, OK, a Democratic state party spokesman, sent out a YouTube link to a pretty significant segment of the show that Maddow devoted to the PA Republican plan to change the way our state allocates its electoral votes.

If you're so inclined (and can stomach Maddow's smug, smiling, I'm-smarter-than-you-are style) you can watch it here.

Otherwise, let me fill you in.

She lays out the facts: GOP legislative leaders and Gov. Corbett are backing a proposal to do away with the state's current winner-take-all electoral system that would (like 47 other states) award all our 20 electoral votes next year to whichever presidential candidate wins the statewide popular vote.

Instead, electoral votes would be assigned by congressional districts (after reapportionment we'll have 18) with the other two votes going to the statewide winner.

Then Maddow shows a map of the state and says if this system had been in place in 2008, candidate Obama would have gotten a net gain of 1 electoral vote instead of the 21 he got for beating McCain by a comfortable 10 percentage points. She says McCain, despite having not convinced any more voters than he did, would be rewarded; Obama, having clearly won a majority of Pennsylvanians, would be punished.

(What she doesn't say is that wouldn't have made a difference in the national result since Obama won the electoral vote 365-173. A total of 270 is needed for victory.)

Then, because MSNBC apparently cannot talk about Pennsylvania without Ed Rendell, he comes on and argues that the GOP plan is unfair and reduces the power of voters as follows: say Democratic Philly gives Obama 85% of its vote and, therefore, its 3 electoral votes; then say the suburban districts give the GOP nominee 51% and, therefore, its 3 electoral votes. See where he's headed? Suddenly, one party's voters has far more power than the other party's voters.


I think this redistribution plan is unfair UNLESS it's done nationally. Then all red and blue states would share electoral votes between the two candidates rather than following their usual lock-step, one-party patterns.

Meanwhile, Rendell (oh, he's a clever one) offers this little tease. Suppose, he says, the GOP gets its way in PA and the Republican candidate carries the state but (because he or she no longer gets all 20 electoral votes) loses the presidency by an electoral total of less than 20.

"Be careful what you wish for," Rendell admonishes.

The sponsor of the PA plan, Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi, says there will be a pubic hearing on the issue in October. This is an issue very much worth watching.

Just maybe not on cable TV news. Grrr.

Daily News Political Columnist
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About this blog
John Baer has been covering politics and government for the Daily News since 1987. The National Journal in 2002 called Baer one of the country's top 10 political journalists outside Washington, saying Baer has, "the ability to take the skin off a politician without making it hurt too much." E-mail John at

John is the author of the book "On The Front Lines of Pennsylvania Politics: Twenty-Five Years of Keystone Reporting" (The History Press, 2012). Reach John at

John Baer Daily News Political Columnist
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