Last week, 13 Pennsylvania Republican state senators introduced a bill that would change the way the state’s electoral college votes are awarded. (You may have read about it when it was initially floated in December.) Instead of a winner-take-all system in which the presidential candidate with the most popular votes gets all 20 electoral college votes, as is in place now, the votes would be allocated using a combination of winner-take-all and proportional voting. 18 of the state’s electoral votes would be awarded proportionally, and two would be allocated on a winner-take-all basis. In other words: Barack Obama would get 2 votes automatically, because he won the state, and then 10 of the remaining 18, based on the percentage by which he won (52.088%).
Over the weekend, liberal blog ThinkProgress labeled this “vote-rigging”, tying it back to sponsor Dominic Pileggi’s 2011 plan to grant votes based on congressional district, rather than actual votes. Washington Post blogger Jamelle Bouie flat-out confused the two plans today, making it seem as if Pennsylvania had simply re-introduced the earlier plan. Pileggi’s aim here is indeed to net more electoral college votes for Republican candidates. But is his new bill really vote-rigging?
It depends. On its face, Pileggi’s statement that the system “much more accurately reflects the will of the voters in our state” is correct. This system actually brings America closer to a National Popular Vote–something liberals have long lobbied for. Here’s the problem–the effort to effect this sort of policy over the last couple years has taken place almost entirely in states that vote Democrat in presidential elections, but are controlled by Republican legislatures. In other words, in an ideal Republican world, red states like Texas would remain winner-take-all, and blue states would become proportional, thereby increasing only the number of GOP electoral votes. If every state went proportional (or better yet, if we got rid of the electoral college altogether), then Pileggi’s proposal would become quite a bit more palatable.