Friday, September 16, 2011








Another Election Rigging Idea


Deeming it "not a Republican-Democrat issue," Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett on a local radio program threw his support behind

a bill championed by top Republican legislators to do away with the winner-take-all apportioning of the state's electoral votes Instead, most of those votes would be parceled out based on the popular vote winner in each of the state's congressional districts.

In 2008, Senator Obama carried only 9 of 19 congressional districts in Pennsylvania, though he carried the state overall by 10 percentage points, thereby gaining all 21 of its electoral votes. Pennsylvania will be losing one congressional district, paring its representation in the House of Representatives to 18 and its electors to 20. The new lines will be gerrymandered drawn by the state legislature, both of whose chambers are controlled by Republicans. Recent speculation has it that that 12 safe GOP, and 6 safe Democratic, districts will result.

If the proposed rules had been in effect in 2008, in an election carried by a wide margin by the Democrat, Barack Obama would have would have been awarded only 11 of the state's 21 electors. If the new rules go into effect, and Pennsylvanians cast their votes in precisely the same way in 2012, Obama would win only 8 or 9 of the state's 20 electors.

This effort, spearheaded by State Senate Majority Leader Dominick Pileggi, is worrying GOP members of the U.S. House. They recognize that if the proposal is implemented, Democrats might move campaign funds and other resources from safe Democratic districts to swing districts (usually suburban) represented by a Republican. It likely would reduce the impact of the state in most presidential elections, with, Nate Silver points out, "fewer favors from Washington, fewer visits from the candidates, less of a windfall for the state's economy, and less face-time for its politicians."


Nevertheless, as described by Mother Jones

If the president wins the states John Kerry won in 2004 plus Ohio—otherwise enough to give him a narrow win—changing the electoral vote rules in Pennsylvania alone would swing the election to the Republican nominee.

"This would effectively extend the effect of gerrymandering beyond Congress and to the Electoral College."

It doesn't necessarily end there. After their epic sweep of state legislative and gubernatorial races in 2010, Republicans also have total political control of Michigan, Ohio*, and Wisconsin, three other big states that traditionally go Democratic and went for Obama in 2008.* Implementing a Pennsylvania-style system in those three places—in Ohio, for example, Democrats anticipate controlling just 4 or 5 of the state's 16 congressional districts—could offset Obama wins in states where he has expanded the electoral map, like Colorado, New Mexico, North Carolina, or Virginia. "If all these Rust Belt folks get together and make this happen, that could be really dramatic," says Carolyn Fiddler, a spokeswoman for the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee (DLCC), which coordinates state political races for the Dems.

Democrats would not be able to retaliate. The only states that John McCain won where Dems control both houses of the state legislature are Arkansas and West Virginia.* West Virginia is too small for splitting the electoral votes to have much effect. That leaves Arkansas, another small state—and one where McCain won every district handily in 2008.

Nor is there anything obviously illegal or unconstitutional about the GOP plan. "The Constitution is pretty silent on how the electors are chosen in each state," says Karl Manheim, a law professor at Loyola University in Los Angeles. The GOP plan "would certainly increase the political advantage of politically gerrymandering your districts," he adds.



Obviously, the initiative is about Democratic-Repub politics- and reflects a traditional GOP value. "There are huge portions of Pennsylvania," the Governor told his talk-show host, "that voted for the other candidate in many of the elections and their vote really didn't count."

Corbett is ignoring the huge numbers of Montanans, and Arizonans, and even Texans- residents of a huge state, like Pennsylvania- who voted Democratic and their vote "really didn't count." There were, additionally, in 2000 a hugh number of Floridians- a plurality, it would appear- who voted for the Democratic candidate and their vote didn't count, swinging the election from Al Gore to "You've covered your ass," George W. Bush.

More disturbingly, however, Corbett seems to believe that the leader of the free world and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces (when actually called into service) represents land. He does not lament the disenfranchisement of citizens- but of land: "There are huge portions of Pennsylvania," the Governor notes, in a nearly-perfect encapsulation of the GOP preference for property over people.

Voter I.D. laws and now this- if you can't beat 'em fairly, just beat 'em.



*By almost all accounts, Ohio is a swing state.


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