Kill the electoral college; anything less is just playing politics

Posted by By at 20 September, at 08 : 23 AM Print

The Pennsylvania legislature is considering re-writing the way electoral college votes will be counted in the 2012 election.

Currently, Pennsylvania is a winner-take-all state. The candidate who wins a majority of the state’s popular tally gets all 20 electoral college votes. Some Republicans in the state legislature, led by Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi and supported by Republican Gov. Tom Corbett, would like to change that.

Each state has a number of electoral college votes equal to the number of senators and representatives it sends to Washington, D.C. Pileggi would like to see each representative’s district get one vote assigned to it. If the Republican candidate wins the district, he, or she, gets the electoral college vote.

The two at-large electoral college votes credited to the two senate seats would remain that way – going to the overall statewide winner.

What that could have meant in 2008, when Barack Obama won the state, could have made Republicans very happy. Obama won 276 electoral college votes; it takes 270 to win the White House. But as many as 12 of the Keystone State’s votes could have gone the other way, had Peleggi’s plan been in effect.

On the surface, it sounds like a good deal for Republicans, and clearly its supporters intend it that way. The county in which I live gave 60 percent of its vote to John McCain in 2008, and the congressional district has not voted for a Democrat in longer than most people still alive can remember – if ever.

But “be careful what you wish for.”

In another state where I lived for a time, a state senatorial candidate explained why he did not spend much time in my then-hometown. There were only a few hundred votes, and most would go for him, he said. On the other hand, he did spend considerable time in a nearby town because it had several thousand votes and his win was not always assured.

A similar situation exists in the Keystone State, with most of the state’s congressional districts virtually guaranteed to go either Democrat or Republican; only a few are really up for grabs. At least with winner-take-all, there was reason to hope to swing enough voters to win the Grand Prize. With no Grand Prize to win, think of the money that will not be earned by all those local TV stations that do not get the advertising revenue because, well, we know how they’re going to vote.

Of course, a gambler might think that could change.

Generally speaking, Republicans are good at sticking with their talking points. They grab a 3×5 card and head out to inculcate their clichés – get out of the way of the job-makers. Democrats, by definition, are less regimented, Put 100 Democrats in a barn with one door, and it wide open, and 75 of them will be at the other three walls looking for a way toward their goal.

But if Republicans make it more difficult than it already is for Democrats to win, Keystone Donkeys might well get the idea they should start pulling together toward defeating vulnerable Elephants.

From where I sit, the electoral college has completely outlived its usefulness. In the early days of the nation, before the Internet and computer-counted voting, electoral voters were selected to travel to Washington, D.C. and cast their states’ ballots. Now, computers tally voters’ selections as they are made.

The results are stored on a computer chip, and taken to the county seat to be added to the other chips from around the county. Polls close at 8 p.m. and by 11 p.m. we know the results. Every vote counts, every vote is counted.

What I’d like to see is each state has one vote, and the candidate who wins in that state gets it. Whichever candidate gets 26 or more votes, moves into the White House, and the other goes home.

Really, there is no reason, other than political gamesmanship on the part of whichever party happens to be in power, to involve an electoral college – or the U.S. Supreme Court – in selecting a president.

Photo by Joamm Tall

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This post was written by:
- who has written 169 posts for Rock The Capital
John Messeder is an award winning journalist with more than 35 years experience writing about education, environment and local government issues. He has lived in Maine, Florida, California and Alaska, and, by temporary turns, numerous places in between. John also is an accomplished photographer, and avid hiker, conservationist, oral history buff, and author of several books he has not yet got 'round to writing. He lives in Adams County, Pa., just over a hill from Gettysburg, with his wife and Golden Retriever. He may be contacted at john@JohnMesseder.com - Email jmesseder

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