Republican lawmakers in Pennsylvania could drastically alter the political map ahead of next year’s presidential election, awarding their electoral votes by congressional district instead of as a state.
The legislation proposed by state Senate leader Dominic Pileggi is supported by Republican governor Tom Corbett (pictured above) and would be more likely to hurt President Obama’s chances of reelection than a Republican candidate’s. But it is angering politicians on both sides of the aisle in Pennsylvania and nationally.
The state is always a battleground, despite the fact that a Republican hasn’t won the presidential election there since 1988.
The proposal would switch the awarding of electoral votes from the current winner-takes-all system to a system that would award the electoral college votes to the winner of each congressional district. The only other states that have this process are Maine and Nebraska, but with Pennsylvania’s 20 electoral votes, this could have a significant impact on the 2012 election.
State Sen. Daylin Leach is leading the charge from the state Democratic side to kill the legislation. He calls the legislation an “obscene partisan power grab.”
“We’ve always respected the vision of the founders, the electoral process for 224 years,” Leach told ABC News. “Suddenly, we have a different type of Republican in office now willing to essentially and in my view desecrate that history and make Pennsylvania an irrelevant state in the presidential election, which would cost us money, cost us prestige, and cost us influence with one purpose: to rig the election so their guy wins.”
Leach accused Corbett and the Republicans backing the legislation of wanting to “fix the election like they do in third-world countries.”
And it’s far from just Democrats who are upset about the legislation. The chairman of the state GOP is against it, and so are national Republicans. They believe the change in systems will mean that Democrats will move money and resources from districts they don’t need to worry about, like Philadelphia, to suburban districts that could be more in play.
“This proposal will have a minimal effect on the presidential race at the expense of negatively altering the political landscape for Republicans in Pennsylvania’s House races,” National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Pete Sessions said in a statement.
The governor’s office is standing firm, though, with spokesman Kevin Harley saying Democratic claims that the legislation is a partisan political move are “blatantly false.”
“The governor simply believes from a policy point of view this is the fairest way to distribute Pennsylvania’s electoral college vote,” Harley said.
Corbett also rejects claims from both Republicans and Democrats that the new system will make the once hard fought battleground state irrelevant. Harley said the governor believes it will make the state “even more competitive.”
State Democratic Chairman Jim Burn calls the plan “radical…. Mr. Corbett and his followers are shooting themselves in the foot. If they want us to move our resources up into the congressional districts, we will take our operations, our resources and our GOTV efforts in congressional districts and we will beat them there.”
State Democrats are examining whether there is legal recourse to stop the legislation.
Republican Senate Majority Leader Pileggi told ABC News that the legislation “more closely conforms the electoral college vote to the vote expressed by the people of Pennsylvania for president.”
On the Democratic side of the aisle, Leach said he’s even going to appeal to members of the Republican tea party that this legislation is not what the nation’s founding fathers had in mind.
Leach also believes this legislation could move to other states—although there hasn’t been any discussion yet—like Florida, Michigan and Wisconsin. He thinks it will be a “national effort in states where Republicans temporarily control government, but Democrats have won presidential elections.”
The issue has been the focus of state politics for days and it’s starting to get nasty. On his new monthly radio show, Corbett defended the legislation, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.
“It will allow the people across the state to be better represented when it comes to the vote for president,” Corbett said.
There are five or six political regions, said Corbett, that have “not been represented because of the huge turnout in Philadelphia.”
Leach sees Corbett’s last comment as a “dog whistle” to his supporters on the issue of race, charging that his supporters will understand that the governor is referring to the large minority voter turnout in Philadelphia.
The governor’s office called that claim “outrageous.”
“Sen. Leach says outrageous and irresponsible things every day and that’s just another example of it,” Harley said.