GOP scheme to rig PA presidential elections is worst attack on US democracy since the Civil War

Yes, it's as bad as all that.

Pennsylvania Republicans are attempting to steal in plain sight the 2012 presidential election, by rigging the way the state awards electoral votes. The proposed scheme could routinely award electoral vote victories to Republicans who lose the state's popular vote. In 2000, such a scheme could have awarded George W. Bush an electoral vote victory in Pa., despite his losing the statewide popular vote to Al Gore by 5%.

The scheme could award victory next year to another Texas governor, Rick Perry, whether he wins the popular vote or not, with no need to resort to Florida-style vote-counting shenanigans.

The state's current system of awarding electoral votes has been in place since 1836. It can be fairly called a foundation of the state's democracy.

This is not a far-flung conspiracy. It has the support of Governor Tom Corbett and Senate Majority Leader Domenic Pileggi.

Basically, the scheme has two steps:

1) GOP leaders mercilessly gerrymander the state's congressional districts. They can do this because they control the governor's mansion and the legislature, and because Democratic voters are concentrated in relatively few geographic areas, such as Philadelphia. The GOP's current partisan district-cutting plan carves 12 safe Republican seats out of 18, in a state with a clear Democratic registration advantage.

2) The state secedes from the American democratic process that has stood the test of 176 years of history, including the Civil War, and awards electoral votes piecemeal via the very oddly-shaped congressional districts the GOP just finished gerrymandering.

In a related article, Yale constitutional law professor Akhil Reed Amar says of the Pennsylvania GOP's vote-rigging scheme, "It's something that no previous legislature in America since the Civil War has ever had the audacity to impose."

That article quashes the Pa. GOP's weak argument for their unprecedented power grab, that Maine and Nebraska employ similar systems. Author Nick Baumann notes that those small states have in place mathematical assurances that guarantee the popular vote winner must be the electoral vote winner as well. Pa. obviously would have no such assurance.

I strongly suggest looking at State Senator Daylin Leach's principled dissection of the scheme in the Inquirer. As Leach notes, Pa. Democratic legislatures often, over the past century and three quarters, have been in a position to impose such a vote-stealing scheme on the public (indeed so have countless legislatures in all 50 states over the centuries), but all declined to do so, out of basic respect for American democracy.

Apparently Corbett, Pileggi and other Pennsylvania Republicans are bereft of such respect.

But rigging the system in public is not without risks. Area GOP legislators, some of whom slide by in districts that already lean Democratic, should remember that their scheme -- despite its power-grabbing recklessness -- provides scant protection from voters exacting electoral retribution on those who would snub history and steal their presidential vote.

Voters who catch you rigging their electoral system are apt to use that electoral system against you as best they can, so you can wreak no more havoc on the democracy Pennsylvanians have held sacred for so many years.

Electoral College

This is a good idea, if, and only if, every state in the Union does it. why should a presidential vote in Utah or California not count. Unless it is done nationwide it is anti-democratic and a naked power grab. I forget who said "The Electoral College was set up to protect Southern white men--and it still does"

House districts are lousy pools for counting prez votes

They're often so gerrymandered that statewide popular-vote winners can end up with fewer electoral votes than their opponents, if the opponents' party has carved out the districts radically enough.

States concerned with fixing the fallible democracy of the Electoral College -- hardly the aim of Gov. Corbett and the kind of radical Republicans who gave us the 2000 Florida fiasco and the terrible president who lost the popular vote -- can join the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact, as eight states already have, and pledge to give all of their electoral votes to whomever wins the national popular vote.

It's a way of circumventing the Electoral College, in case it's in danger of producing yet another undemocratically-chosen winner, such as George W. Bush.

But that certainly isn't the goal of this current scheme, and its champions would never want their plan to spread to Republican states with sizable Democratic congressional representation, such as Texas or Georgia.

If this were actually about making presidential elections more fair, the solution is obvious: work towards eliminating the Electoral College altogether and elect presidents the way we elect governors and senators and representatives, by the simple popular vote.

Getting more states to join the National Popular Vote Compact is a logical way to get there, without unfairly rigging elections.

Fairer elections is not what this is about however. Rigging elections is.

sam@dogoodprojects.com

Motivation for Pilleggi

It seems that the Republican Party chair and most of its congressional delegation are against the move, so what's in it for Pilleggi?

One thought: Pilleggi's district is increasingly Democratic, thanks to voter registration drives in Chester City in 04, 06 and 08. Pilleggi can't get rid of Chester because its his home. However, Chester is insides PA-1, Bob Brady's district. If this measure effectively represses African American turnout in PA-1,2, this will mean less Democrats in Chester at the polls on election day, he happens to be up for re-election next year.

We need to recall Corbett

We need to recall Corbett now and this state doesn't even have recall capability. Someone had better introduce it.

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