Pennsylvania Ponders Bold Democrat-Screwing Electoral Plan

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Sept. 13 2011 4:06 PM

Pennsylvania Ponders Bold Democrat-Screwing Electoral Plan

Laura Olson reports on the happenings in Harrisburg, where Republicans now control all of the branches of government:

Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi is trying to gather support to change the state's "winner-takes-all" approach for awarding electoral votes. Instead, he's suggesting that Pennsylvania dole them out based on which candidate wins each of the 18 congressional districts, with the final two going to the contender with the most votes statewide.
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In other reports, Pileggi sounds awfully sanguine about the effect this would have on PA as a swing state. Why even bring that up? Pennsylvania is typically a closely-divided state, and while it's gone Democratic in every election since 1992, it's been heavily campaigned-in every year.

So, let's pretend this is a totally political neutral decision. If the next Republican candidate breaks the streak and wins the state, it would be horrible for him -- he'd shed electoral votes. But if the president wins, he's down at least nine, possibly ten electoral votes, because congressional districting is slanted towards the GOP.

Here's what I mean. In 2008, Barack Obama won the state by 10 points (overcoming a last-minute hoax scare wherein a Republican volunteer faked a mugging and claimed a black man carved a B on her face, for Barack). But the congressional map had been gerrymandered by Republicans in 2001, and John McCain ended up winning 10 of 19 congressional districts. If the Pileggi plan had been in place, Obama's rout would have given him a slim 11-10 electoral vote victory. If Republicans do a smarter gerrymander this time, they could craft an 11-7 map, or even a 12-6 map (they'll have 18 to work with, thanks to the Census taking one seat away). Let's say Obama carries Pennsylvania narrowly, but loses 11 congressional districts. In that scenario, the winner of the Pennsylvania popular vote takes nine EVs; the loser takes 11 EVs. How's that reform look to you?

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. You can reach him at daveweigel@gmail.com, or tweet at him @daveweigel.