Democratic Congressional Delegation: Don't Mess With PA's Electoral College

Jul 29, 2013

Democratic Congressman Mike Doyle wants it on record that he and the rest of his fellow Democrats in the Pennsylvania delegation are opposed to changing the Electoral College.

They have sent a letter to Gov. Tom Corbett warning him that passage of PA Senate Bill 538 would have consequences. The bill was introduced in February by Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi (R-Delaware) and hasn't shown much movement since. But Doyle said that does not mean the bill is dead.

"The Pennsylvania House, Senate and governor are controlled by one party, and there's nothing to say that at the last minute before a session goes, a lot of these bills come up in the 11th hour," Doyle said.

The legislation would amend the act of 1937, known as the Pennsylvania Election Code, by dividing up the state's 20 electoral votes. Eighteen would be based on the percentage of votes each presidential candidate receives, and two would be granted on the at-large outcome.

Democrats contend that by re-apportioning the electors, Republicans are trying to swing the outcome of elections, and Doyle noted that there is no movement in red states like Texas and Mississippi to change up their electoral college. Only two states divvy up their electors: Maine and Nebraska.

But Senate GOP spokesman Erik Arneson said many people feel the current system is unfair because a candidate can capture a large minority of the vote and receive zero electors. He believes amending the Electoral College is a national conversation, but they don't carry much clout outside of the commonwealth.

"We in the state Senate of Pennsylvania are unable to introduce bills in other states," Arneson said. "We cannot control what other states do or do not do."

Beyond the political ramifications, Doyle said the measure would diminish Pennsylvania's standing as an important battleground in presidential contests, which he said benefits the commonwealth economically and politically.

"What that means is millions or tens or hundreds of millions of dollars get spent in our state. Presidential candidates visit our state," said Doyle. "Our voters have the benefit of seeing these candidates up close and personal because Pennsylvania is a very relevant state. This piece of legislation would take all of that away."

But Arneson argued that the outcome of the 2012 presidential election in Pennsylvania was forecasted far ahead of November, "and yet, both candidates funneled millions of dollars into the state, so I don't quite understand the logic of people who are concerned about Pennsylvania losing its status as a battle ground state."

The bill has been referred to committee, and Arneson said there are no plan to act on it for the moment.