State House Sound Bites

Capitol reporter Mary Wilson covers Pennsylvania politics and issues at the Pennsylvania state capitol.

Casey chimes in on plan to change electoral votes tally

Written by Mary Wilson, Capitol Bureau Chief | Mar 19, 2013 5:55 PM
Thumbnail image for senator-robert-casey.jpg

“Not a priority.”

That’s what you’ll hear most often when knocking around the Capitol asking about a controversial state Senate proposal to change the way Pennsylvania awards its electoral votes.

But there was Democratic U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, lodging his complaints with a formal (and very public) letter to Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi, who introduced legislation about a month ago that would have Pennsylvania dole out 18 of its 20 electoral votes based on each presidential candidate’s share of the statewide popular vote. The other two votes would go to the winner of the popular vote. Right now, all of Pennsylvania’s electoral votes go to the popular vote winner.

“As S.B. 538 moves forward, I respectfully urge you to ensure that this bill is considered and debated with complete transparency, allowing for a thorough review by way of public hearings in the Senate,” wrote Casey. “To pass this bill absent appropriate Senate hearings would not be in the best interests of the people of Pennsylvania.”

But the bill is hardly moving forward.

It’s parked in the Senate State Government Committee, where chairman Sen. Lloyd Smucker (R-Lancaster) said it will stay for some time.

“We don’t have any specific plans to bring it up for a vote in the immediate future,” said Smucker. “We have a number of bills in the committee, dozens of bills in the committee, and that’s not one that’s on the priority list.”

“Senator Pileggi’s goal in reintroducing the bill was to continue the important dialogue about whether or not the electoral college should be changed and, if so, how,” said Erik Arneson, Pileggi’s spokesman.

So why the letter from Casey?

A spokeswoman from his office said he simply thought the issue was important and he wanted to get his opinion of it on the record.

Larry Ceisler, a Democratic political analyst based in Philadelphia, said the move makes sense, since Casey’s recent reelection means his “motives would not be questioned,” and he wouldn’t be accused of grandstanding with an issue that has proven to be red meat to the Democratic Party faithful.

“Maybe what Senator Casey wants to do is he wants to bring attention to the issue so it doesn’t fly under the radar and then one day, in a coordinated fashion, the Senate, the House and the governor do the legislation,” said Ceisler. “So he might be trying to raise the profile of the issue, keep it in public play, so it doesn’t happen.”

Franklin & Marshall College pollster Terry Madonna said the profile Casey is trying to raise is his own.

“He’s ratcheted up his profile,” said Madonna, referring to the recent spate of press releases coming from Casey’s office, some of which have publicized events with Republican Sen. Marco Rubio and Pat Toomey.

Madonna said such a move is hardly questionable after Casey’s most recent election, when he saw his Republican opponent Tom Smith nearly catch up to him in statewide polls.

“We’re seeing a much more aggressive, present Casey,” said Madonna.

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Comments: 1

  • Ooty Cat img 2013-03-20 13:13

    Republican legislators who want to split state electoral votes in states that have recently voted Democratic in presidential elections, do not want to split electoral votes in states that recently voted Republican in presidential elections.

    Obvious partisan machinations like Pileggi's should add support for the National Popular Vote movement. If the party in control in each state is tempted every 2, 4, or 10 years (post-census) to consider rewriting election laws and redistrict with an eye to the likely politically beneficial effects for their party in the next presidential election, then the National Popular Vote system, in which all voters across the country are guaranteed to be politically relevant and treated equally, is needed now more than ever.

    A survey of Pennsylvania voters showed 78% overall support for a national popular vote for President.

    Support was 87% among Democrats, 68% among Republicans, and 76% among independents.

    By age, support was 77% among 18-29 year olds, 73% among 30-45 year
    olds, 81% among 46-65 year olds, and 78% for those older than 65.

    By gender, support was 85% among women and 71% among men.

    The National Popular Vote bill would guarantee the Presidency to the
    candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states (and DC).

    Every vote, everywhere, would be politically relevant and equal in presidential elections. No more distorting and divisive red and blue state maps.

    When the bill is enacted by states with a majority of the electoral votes enough electoral votes to elect a President (270 of 538), all the electoral votes from the enacting states would be awarded to the presidential candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states and DC.

    The presidential election system that we have today was not designed, anticipated, or favored by the Founding Fathers but, instead, is the product of decades of evolutionary change precipitated by the emergence of political parties and enactment by 48 states of winner-take-all laws, not mentioned, much less endorsed, in the Constitution.

    The bill uses the power given to each state by the Founding Fathers in the Constitution to change how they award their electoral votes for President. Historically, virtually all of the major changes in the method of electing the President, including ending the requirement that only men who owned substantial property could vote and 48 current state-by-state winner-take-all laws, have come about by state legislative action.

    In Gallup polls since 1944, only about 20% of the public has supported the current system of awarding all of a state’s electoral votes to the presidential candidate who receives the most votes in each separate state (with about 70% opposed and about 10% undecided).
    Support for a national popular vote is strong among Republicans, Democrats, and Independent voters, as well as every demographic group in virtually every state surveyed in recent polls in recent closely divided Battleground states: CO 68%, FL 78%, IA 75%, MI - 73%, MO 70%, NH 69%, NV 72%, NM 76%, NC 74%, OH 70%, PA 78%, VA 74%, and WI - 71%; in Small states (3 to 5 electoral votes): AK 70%, DC 76%, DE - 75%, ID 77%, ME 77%, MT 72%, NE 74%, NH 69%, NV 72%, NM 76%, OK 81%, RI - 74%, SD 71%, UT 70%, VT 75%, WV 81%, and WY 69%; in Southern and Border states: AR - 80%, KY- 80%, MS 77%, MO 70%, NC 74%, OK 81%, SC 71%, TN - 83%, VA- 74%, and WV - 81%; and in other states polled: AZ 67%, CA 70%, CT - 74%, MA 73%, MN 75%, NY - 79%, OR 76%, and WA 77%.
    Americans believe that the candidate who receives the most votes should win.

    The bill has passed 31 state legislative chambers in 21 states with 243
    electoral votes. The bill has been enacted by 9 jurisdictions with 132
    electoral votes – 49% of the 270 necessary to go into effect.

    Follow National Popular Vote on Facebook via NationalPopularVoteInc

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