It's relatively rare for a US Senator to wade into state legislation, but that's what Democrat Bob Casey did today in coming out against a GOP proposal to change the way Pennsylvania awards presidential electoral votes.
Casey issued a letter to the proposal's lead sponsor, state Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi, saying the bill "would drastically alter the method by which the Commonwealth allocates its 20 electoral votes and diminish the historical role Pennsylvania has played in electing our Nation's presidents. I respectfully urge you to reconsider this legislation."
Like most states Pennsylvania uses a winner-take-all system for awarding its votes. Pileggi's proposal would divvy them up by voting percentage, while a similar proposal in the House would award them by congressional district. (The GOP currently has a 13-5 advantage in congressional seats.) Republicans say the change would more accurately reflect who the state's voters want to be president, while Democrats say it's a GOP power-grab that would render the state relatively meaningless in presidential years since it would put few electoral votes up for grabs.
The full letter from Casey, a Democrat, is below:
The Honorable Dominic Pileggi
Senate of Pennsylvania
350 Main Capitol Building
Harrisburg, PA 17120
Dear Senator Pileggi,
I write to express my opposition to S.B. 538, legislation recently introduced by you and 12 other state Senators to amend Pennsylvania's Election Code. If enacted, S.B. 538 would drastically alter the method by which the Commonwealth allocates its 20 electoral votes and diminish the historical role Pennsylvania has played in electing our Nation's presidents. I respectfully urge you to reconsider this legislation.
Since the first presidential election in 1789, Pennsylvania citizens have participated in 56 presidential elections. For over 200 years, the Commonwealth's electoral votes have gone to the candidate receiving the plurality of the popular vote. As you know, 48 states and the District of Colombia also use this so-called general-ticket method, yet S.B. 538 would make Pennsylvania the only state in the country to allocate its votes proportionately. Under this system, all but two electoral votes would be allocated based on the percentage of the statewide popular vote received by a candidate, dividing the Commonwealth's 20 votes. Several political scientists have asserted that by doing away with the current winner-take-all system, Pennsylvania's influence would diminish, ceding power to the voters of other large, politically diverse states. As a commonwealth, our state should speak with one voice when the people of Pennsylvania make a decision in a presidential election.
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. To pass this bill absent appropriate Senate hearings would not be in the best interests of the people of Pennsylvania. Thank you for your consideration of my views on this legislation.