York's Democratic Party leader is warning of vote rigging, and his GOP counterpart is urging legislators to proceed slowly when mulling a state Senate leader's proposal to change Pennsylvania's system of awarding electoral votes for U.S. President.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch Pileggi, R-Delaware County, recently introduced a bill to replace the current "winner-take-all" system of awarding electoral votes with a system that allocates electoral votes proportionately.
The first 18 of the state's 20 votes would be based on a candidate's percentage of the popular vote, with the remaining two going to the overall winner.
In a memo on the bill, Pileggi said the proposal "much more accurately reflects the will of the voters in our state," and noted that the new legislation is different from an earlier proposal that would have allocated electors by district.
Pileggi wrote that President Barack Obama, who won the state's 20 votes last November with 52 percent of the vote, would have received 12 of Pennsylvania's 20 electors under the new system: the two statewide electors plus 10 of the 18 remaining electors distributed proportionately.
Dem response: York County Democratic Party chairman Bob Kefauver said the local party hasn't adopted a formal position, but he's confident there would be legal action against the change, if the bill passes.
"If the nation switched and every state did it proportionately, then an argument could be made for the fairness of that," he said. "It's clear that Republican legislators and governors across the U.S. are not interested in that but targeting blue states as a way of
diluting the total number of electoral votes that a Democratic presidential candidate can win."
He said there's been "zero talk" about applying the same type of electoral process to states such as Utah, Idaho or Alabama, "that have gone consistently red for several decades."
Kefauver said the proposal is "yet another example of the Republican party struggling to rig elections" because they can't win national elections based on the merits of their positions or the solutions they propose.
Other examples include the Republican-drawn "gerrymandered" redistricting maps that were denied in court, as well as the photo identification bill that's still in court, he said.
"I think that if Republican presidential candidates want to win the state of Pennsylvania, rather than attempting to rig the electoral process, they should instead look to developing positions that clearly illustrate their concerns for the needs of middle-class families across the state," he said.
Co-sponsor: Sen. Richard Alloway, R-Adams and York counties, signed on as a co-sponsor. The bill was referred to the State Government Committee, chaired by Sen. Lloyd Smucker, R-Lancaster and York counties. Alloway didn't return calls for comment before press time.
Smucker said he's not sure the bill will come up for vote, as there are a number of other issues that take priority.
Though he supported Pileggi's proposal last year to allocate by district, Smucker said he needs more time to think about the impact of the new bill before he takes a position.
He's been getting mail about the proposal, and more is opposed than in favor, he said.
Bob Wilson, chairman of the York County Republican Party, said the local party hasn't taken a position on the legislation, but he urged lawmakers to proceed slowly.
Changing the allocation of Electoral College votes for president is a fundamental change in the system and requires a great, open debate, "one that involves all people from all walks of life," he said.
Any changes should be done slowly and methodically, he said.
"We want to make sure what gets done is done correctly," he said. "We have certain opportunities to do the correct thing, and at the end of the day I want to see the best thing being done for the right reasons, what the people of Pennsylvania want to have done."
Politicians might think they're making a change to benefit one party, but the dynamics of elections can change so quickly that they could end up hurting the party they intended to help, he said.
Senators' stances: Sen. Pat Vance, R-York and Cumberland counties, said the bill "isn't on the fast track," but it would get her support if it comes up for a vote.
Vance said the legislation is "badly misunderstood," the cause of numerous angry letters she's received from people accusing Republicans of wanting to "steal the election."
"People picture the Obama race and think this is what this is all about," she said. "This has nothing to do with the last presidential race. It's fairness regardless of one's party."
She said the change would make individual votes matter more, and she would like to see a similar process put in place across the nation.
Sen. Mike Waugh, R-Shrewsbury, said he's still analyzing the bill to determine whether it will get his support.
He said he's "not fence-walking," but he's cautious because constituents are mixed on the issue and he's been hearing concerns about changing the system.
"I think it's a worthwhile issue to look at and seriously consider, but I don't have myself down in the detail enough to say I would support it or not as the bill is currently written," he said.