Pennsylvania Senate president Dominic Pileggi (R) has formally introduced a bill to award the state’s electoral votes proportionally, a move that would effectively end its position as a swing state while likely aiding the next Republican presidential candidate.
Republican lawmakers, egged on by the national Republican National Committee, have considered similar measures this year in blue states with GOP-controlled statehouses but in most cases the bills have been ruled out by top Republican officials. In Virginia, a bill to apportion electoral votes by congressional district was voted down decisively in a state Senate committee with a number of Republicans opposing it.
Pennsylvania, however, is still pressing on in a major way. Pileggi’s bill, introduced Thursday, has 13 co-sponsors, half of the 26 votes required to pass a bill through the state senate. Both Gov. Tom Corbett (R) and state Majority Leader Mike Turzai (R) expressed support for a modified version of the bill in 2011, but it never came to a vote amid widespread opposition from the state’s Republican members of Congress. Pileggi has argued the bill would encourage candidates to pay greater attention to rural, less populated parts of the state.
The governor has remained silent on the latest iteration, but Democrats are pushing him to decisively come out against the legislation, which they say is a naked power grab by the national GOP. Corbett is up for re-election in 2014 and may face one of the toughest campaigns of any incumbent governor that year.
“The Republican Party is on the wrong side of the issues and instead of appealing to the growing electorate, they’re scheming to rig the election,” Melanie Roussell, a spokeswoman for the Democratic National Committee, told TPM. “The Republicans in the Pennsylvania House and Senate could push this legislation through both houses in a matter of days, while Republicans in Virginia, Ohio, Wisconsin and Florida have all come out against Electoral College vote rigging in their states.”
It’s still not clear how far Pennsylvania Republicans will take the electoral vote plan. A spokesman for Pileggi, Erik Arneson, told the Philadelphia Inquirer earlier this month that it’s not even a “top 20” priority. Asked for an update, Arneson told TPM that the next step for a bill would be a hearing, but nothing has been scheduled and there’s no timetable for its passage.
Meanwhile in Michigan, there are still twitches of life for a bill that would divy up its electoral college by congressional district. Although Gov. Rick Snyder (R) has expressed concern about the proposal, the state’s Republican party overwhelmingly voted to endorse it by a 1,370-132 margin at their convention on Saturday. If state lawmakers pursue the proposal with similar vigor, Snyder may face heavy pressure within his party to sign a bill.
Benjy Sarlin is a reporter for Talking Points Memo and co-writes the campaign blog, TPM2012. He previously reported for The Daily Beast/Newsweek as their Washington Correspondent and covered local politics for the New York Sun.