Meanwhile, in Pennsylvania

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Oct. 5 2011 8:11 AM

Meanwhile, in Pennsylvania

The Keystone state's great electoral vote fight has faded from the headlines. Odd, that, because the debate only really began yesterday. Amy Worden and Tom Fitzgerald wrap up the hearings -- plural, because both the electoral vote split plan and a one-state popular vote plan got time in Harrisburg. The second idea sounds doomed.

David Weigel David Weigel

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

State government committee chairman Sen. Chuck McIlhinney (R., Bucks) said he has no intention of advancing popular vote bill this fall and not yet made up his mind on the Pileggi bill.
"I wanted to give it a fair shot," said McIlhinney, of the Pileggi bill, adding he will gauge reaction in the Senate Republican caucus before bringing it up for a committee vote.

If he still has to gauge reaction -- a big if! -- then the votes might not be there to push through the plan that would divvy up Pennsylvania's electoral votes by congressional district. The reasons for that are the same as the reasons this debate began in the first place. Republicans aren't sure if the debate is worth having. Congressional candidates stand to lose if this passes and the state is gerrymandered in a way that would max out the number of Republican-leaning seats. (If it passed, a presidential candidate who won 50.1% in one district would win it, but there are incumbent Republicans who benefit from having less balanced districts.) The GOP's presidential candidate might even lose out, because what if this is the year that the party carries the state? (This isn't actually a great argument, because if Mitt Romney is getting 50.1% of the vote in Pennsylvania, he's likely winning the election anyway. But Republicans might not know this!)

Back to the popular vote debate. It's the more reasonable of the two, more in line with a one-man-one-vote principle. If it passed, the candidate who got the most votes nationwide would be awarded Pennsylvania's electoral college votes -- even if he lost Pennsylvania. Simple enough, but it drove one Republican nuts.

Sen. Mike Folmer, R-Lebanon County, became incensed at testimony from League of Women Voters and Common Cause representatives endorsing an inter-state compact to ensure that the popular vote elects the president. Folmer’s reaction built as he compared the movement to the rise of Nazis in Germany.

“If we go to a national popular vote, we might as well get rid of all 50 states,” Folmer said red-faced, before committee McIlhinney reined him in.

I'll have to be the skunk here and point out that the Nazis didn't actually win the popular vote while there were fair elections in Germany. Maybe the people who got elected in a fluke Republican wave aren't the best judges of how a 220-year old system should be fixed?

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 



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