BY MELISSA DANIELS firstname.lastname@example.org
Every so often, Pennsylvania lawmakers get it in their heads they want to change how we elect the president of the United States.
This time it’s Philadelphia Democrat Mark Cohen.
Cohen says the “complex” electoral college system dilutes Pennsylvania’s power in deciding the president. The proposal would shift from the current electoral college – in which Pennsylvania has a rich 20 votes – to the nation-at-large electing a president based on the raw numbers of voters.
The idea is that when enough states sign on to reach the 270 electoral votes needed to win the presidency, they’ll agree to give their electoral votes to the popular vote winner, ending the current system without a constitutional amendment.
Cohen notes 10 states and the District of Columbia have passed National Popular Vote bills, including neighboring Maryland, New Jersey and New York.
From one perspective, the math is actually on Cohen’s side, but by less than one percentage point. Pennsylvania’s current 20 electoral college votes – behind only California, Florida, New York and Texas – accounts for 3.7 percent of the total. According to the Federal Election Commission, Pennsylvania had a total popular vote of 5,753,670 in the 2012 presidential race – behind only (you guessed it) California, Florida, New York and Texas – accounting for 4.5 percent of the total.
But the counter-argument about the influence of the electoral college is simply made: Bush v. Gore – in which Bush lost the popular vote, but won the electoral college, and which provided impetus for the National Popular Vote movement in the first place.
Does Cohen’s proposal have legs? Probably not, as Cohen isn’t a member of the majority party that controls the Pennsylvania legislative calendar.
Cohen’s proposal does bring to mind the one-time push from legislative Republicans to apportion electoral votes to each party’s presidential candidate based on how many total votes they received.
Pennsylvania has voted for a Democratic presidential candidate in the past six elections.