Local Democratic officials blasted a Republican-Craftet bill that would change the way the state allocates its Electoral College votes for U.S. president.
The prime sponsor of the bill is state Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi of Chester.
Jeremy Funk, communications director for the liberal-leaning Americans United for Change organization, called Pileggi’s proposal an election-rigging bill during a conference call with reporters. Funk was joined on the call by state Sen. Vincent Hughes, D-Philadelphia, former Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas Judge Nelson A. Diaz and Philadelphia NAACP President J. Whyatt Mondesire.
Hughes, Diaz and Mondesire all argued that Pileggi’s bill is an attempt by Republicans to undermine Latino and African-American voters.
Hughes, who also serves as Democratic chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said this bill would disenfranchise Pennsylvania voters and also diminish Pennsylvania’s clout in presidential elections.
“Really, (Pileggi’s) attempt diminishes Pennsylvania clout in the national picture,” Hughes said.
Pileggi introduced Senate Bill 538 on Feb. 21. It has been referred to the state Senate Government Committee and has 12 co-sponsors: Ted Erickson, R-26, ofNewtown; Joe Scamati, R-Jefferson; Rich Alloway, R-Franklin; Pat Browne, R-Lehigh; John Eichelberger, R-Blair; Mike Folmer, R-Lebanon; Stewart Greenleaf, R-Montgomery; Bob Mensch, R-Montgomery; John Rafferty, R-Montogmery; Tommy Tomlinson, R-Bucks; Kim Ward, R-Westmoreland; and Gene Yaw, R-Lycoming.
Pileggi’s bill would change the state from a winner-take-all system to one that awards electoral votes proportionally. Of Pennsylvania’s 20 electoral votes, 18 would be distributed based on the percentage of the popular vote each candidate wins. The other two votes, representing the states senators, would be given to the candidate who wins the popular vote.
Having earned 52 percent of Pennsylvanians’ votes. President Barack Obama would have won 12 of the state’s 20 electoral votes.
Diaz argued that the plan being put forth by Pileggi would result in Latino voters being ignored throughout the state in elections. He called on Pennsylvania Republican lawmakers to back away from this proposal, similar to some Republican leaders in other states, such as Virginia.
Diaz argued this bill was similar to the voter suppression efforts of the voter ID law that was put on hold last year.
Asked to comment on the Democrats’ comments about the new bill being an attempt to disenfranchise voters, Erickson said, “I don’t believe that’s the case at all.”
Erickson said he has signed on as a co-sponsor of Pileggi’s bill because he believes examining the current system “is a discussion worth having.” Erickson also does not believe there is any linkage to this bill and the voter ID bill.
Similar to Erik Arneson, Pileggi’s communications and policy director, Erickson said he does not view the Electoral College as a top priority this legislative session. He said a top priority of his is passing an
“We believe the issue of how Electoral College votes are allocated in Pennsylvania, and whether the system should be changed, deserves additional debate,” Arneson said in an email earlier this week.
Arneson also indicated that if this bill moves forward, the first step would be to conduct a public hearing.
Even though Senate Republicans say the bill is not a top priority, Mondesire stressed that “vigilance is absolutely necessary here.”
“It could be a low priority, but that doesn’t mean we should be quiet if it’s a low priority,” said Hughes. “What’s wrong is wrong.”
Pileggi introduced a different version of the bill last year. Under the previous plan, candidates would have garnered an electoral vote for each of the state’s 18 congressional districts they carry; the other two electoral votes would have gone to the winner of the statewide balloting.
Democrats and even some Republicans criticized Pileggi’s previous proposal. It split Republican leaders and died before the April 2012 primary election.