Pileggi to reintroduce plan to change Pennsylvania electoral-vote system

State President Pro Tem Joe Scarnati (right) in 2009 with Sens. Jake Corman (left) and Dominic Pileggi.
State President Pro Tem Joe Scarnati (right) in 2009 with Sens. Jake Corman (left) and Dominic Pileggi. (CAROLYN KASTER / Associated Press)
Posted: December 05, 2012

HARRISBURG - If at first you don't succeed, try again.

Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi (R., Delaware) is doing just that in a memo circulated Monday to colleagues, saying he intends to reintroduce legislation in the next session to change the way Pennsylvania parcels out its 20 electoral votes.

Pileggi's new proposal is, at its core, similar to the one he and Gov. Corbett championed last fall, in that it would do away with Pennsylvania's winner-take-all system of awarding electoral votes.

This time, Pileggi wants to have electoral votes awarded "proportionately," based on the popular vote.

"The major goal remains the same - to more closely align our electoral vote with our popular vote," said Pileggi spokesman Erik Arneson, adding that the senator plans to formally introduce the bill early next year.

Pileggi's new plan would award two votes to the winner of the popular vote statewide and then divide the remaining 18 based on the percentage of the popular vote each presidential candidate received.

Under that scenario, his memo noted, President Obama would have won 12 electoral votes to eight for Republican challenger Mitt Romney in the Nov. 6 election. As it was, Obama's five percentage-point edge in the state's popular vote gave him all 20 electoral votes.

Reached for comment Monday, Corbett spokesman Kevin Harley said the governor had not yet seen a detailed proposal and wanted to review one before taking a position.

States are allowed to legislate their method of choosing electors. The only ones not using winner-take-all are Maine and Nebraska, which award electoral votes based on the popular-vote winner in each congressional district - much like Pileggi and Corbett's ill-starred 2011 proposal.

Debate over replacing the Electoral College with a direct popular-vote system has raged for decades. Recently, states such as Wisconsin have considered changing their winner-take-all systems.

In 2011, when Pileggi and Corbett pushed a proposal to parcel out most electoral votes by congressional district, Democrats called it a brazen bid to help Republicans' chances of unseating Obama. It also took friendly fire, some from GOP congressmen wary of driving more Democratic campaign resources into close congressional districts.

State Sen. Daylin Leach (D., Montgomery), contending that Pileggi's new proposal is no better than the old one, called it sour grapes. "The remedy for losing an election is not to change the rules of that election," Leach said Monday, "but to offer more compelling candidates who actually have a compelling message."

Arneson said Pileggi's motives were not partisan. Noting critics' claim that the 2011 bill was aimed at an impending presidential election, he said, "At this point, we couldn't be farther from a presidential election than we are now."

He added: "Hopefully we can now have a straightforward and unemotional debate on the merits of this proposal."


Contact Angela Couloumbis at 717-787-5934 or acouloumbis@phillynews.com, or follow on Twitter @AngelasInk.

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