Thursday, April 17, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Profs Vote NO

Two of Pennsylvania most quoted political scientists tell a state Senate committee that changing the system for awarding electoral votes is a bad idea.

Profs Vote NO

(A brief discussion twixt Baer & Baer's editor, a.k.a. BE)

BE: So did you go to that Senate State Government Committee hearing on GOP Senate Leader Dominic Pileggi's plan to change the way we award our electoral votes?

JB: I did. It was pretty well attended. You can read full coverage here.

BE: Highlights?

JB: For me? Two of the state's most often quoted politicial scientists, G. Terry Madonna of Franklin & Marshall College, and Chris Borick of Mulhenberg College, both PhDs, both veteran observers, sat side by side and came out hard against the plan.

BE: Oh, so class was in session.

JB: A tutorial, for sure.

BE: Highlights?

JB: Madonna noted if the system Pileggi proposes -- awarding PA electoral votes by congressional district rather than the current winner-take-all system -- was in place here over the years there would have been no difference in who won the presidency dating back to 1960.

BE: So no harm, no foul.

JB: BUT. He also noted if that system was in place in every state in America, Nixon would have beaten Kennedy in 1960 and Ford and Carter would have tied in 1976, throwing the election into the U.S. House.

BE: And history would have been altered, in the GOP's favor.

JB: There's more. Madonna also told the committee he has no doubt if PA adopts Pileggi's plan in-state electoral competition AND voter turnout would decline.

BE: In a state where Democrats outnumber Republicans by 1 million voters, a probable plus for the GOP.

JB: Plus he said polling indicates the state will be "very competitive" in next year's election and if we stick with winner-take-all that likely means $35 million to $50 million in campaign investments here for TV ads, campaign offices and related expenses.

BE: Economic stimulus. A Democratic idea.

JB: Borick was even tougher on the plan. He said that because of the way our congressional districts are gerrymandered, basing electoral votes on district results is a horrible idea: "Why tie something as important as presidential elections to something as flawed as our congressional districts?"

BE: A fair point, no?

JB: He also said doing so would "intensify efforts to maintain and exacerbate gerrymandering."

BE: Just what our pols need, another excuse to protect partisanship with funny-shaped districts.

JB: So we can put both professors down as "no" votes on this one.

BE: And the bottom line on Pileggi's plan?

JB: Seems to be losing whatever early steam it had. My guess is it fails, lost in the shuffle of other business in a busy legislative fall.

BE: Wait, you can't mean this is just another idea sucking up oxygen, spinning wheels, wasting the time and efforts of our normally focused and efficient lawmakers?

JB: I think you know the answer to that.

BE: Is it "Grrrr?"

JB: It is.

 

 

John Baer Daily News Political Columnist
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 baerj@phillynews.com.

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 baerj@phillynews.com.

John Baer Daily News Political Columnist
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