Oh my: Pennsylvania weighing bill to allocate electoral votes by congressional district

There are 20 EVs at stake, all of which have gone to Democrats in the last five presidential elections. So this is, to paraphrase Joe Biden, a big effing deal.

Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi is trying to gather support to change the state’s “winner-takes-all” approach for awarding electoral votes. Instead, he’s suggesting that Pennsylvania dole them out based on which candidate wins each of the 18 congressional districts, with the final two going to the contender with the most votes statewide.

So far, the idea has received support from colleagues of the Delaware County Republican in the state House and from Republican Gov. Tom Corbett. But Democrats, who have carried the state in presidential contests since 1992, said the shift would erode Pennsylvania’s clout…

An analysis by the online news service Capitolwire noted that had the proposed distribution process been in place in Pennsylvania in 2008 before the state lost one congressional district due to a population decline in the 2010 census, Mr. Obama would have won only 11 of the state’s 21 votes.

Here’s the district-by-district breakdown from 2008. The new rule wouldn’t have affected the outcome of that election, obviously, but a 10-vote flip might affect it next year. What’s happening here is simple, yet strange: You’ve got a state that’s been reliably blue in presidential elections over the last two decades now suddenly completely red at the top thanks to last November’s GOP wave. Tom Corbett, the new governor, is a Republican and Republicans control both houses of the state legislature. You might think under those circumstances that the party would be willing to take its chances with winner-take-all next year, especially with The One’s job approval in Pennsylvania now in the low 40s, but I guess local GOP wise men have less faith in a sustainable conservative majority in the state than the base does. A lot less faith, actually — the net effect of apportioning EVs by district will be to essentially detonate Pennsylvania’s stature as a prime swing state worthy of the candidates’ attention. Obama and the Republican nominee will show up if 20 votes are in the balance, but if only four or five are, who cares? The GOP’s attitude apparently is that they’re better off banking a minimum of six or seven EVs each election than playing for 20 on what’s been, in recent history, unfavorable turf.

One nice thing about doing it this way, though, is that each voter’s vote will count more. Tonight’s special election in NY-9 is proof enough of that: Ain’t no way no how no chance New York State is going red next year, but if NYS followed Pennsylvania’s lead, there’d be a very good chance of the GOP picking up a few EVs here and there by district. Exit question: Are there any other states in Pennsylvania’s strange situation, where the state’s broken for one party consistently in presidential votes but is now totally controlled by the other party? I can’t think of one offhand.

Update: Good catch by commenters. There are actually two other states in the same situation as Pennsylvania — Michigan and Wisconsin. Both have been voting Democratic for president since the Clinton years (Wisconsin broke for Dukakis in 1988, in fact) and both are now controlled by Republican governors and legislatures. Will they move towards a district-by-district system too now? Stay tuned.

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