The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

January 31, 2013

Reform electoral vote system the right way


Daily Item

---- — Since their disappointing drubbing in the November election, Republicans have spent a lot of time trying to figure out what went wrong. Was it message? Was it demographics? Was it a combination of everything?

Republicans first looked at changing their message, one that would resonate more with more people, especially the growing Hispanic vote. Now their focus has turned to reapportionment of electoral votes within each state, a movement that has caught hold in Pennsylvania and several other states. In Pennsylvania, some Republican representatives are pushing for the change. Right now, electoral votes in the presidential election are not shared, meaning the candidate who wins the popular votes wins them all.

When you look at the electoral map from November's election, you can see how this could ruffle some feathers. While President Obama won Pennsylvania by roughly 300,000 votes, thus earning every electoral vote in this swing state, the map shows an ocean of red (for Mitt Romney) with tiny islands of blue (for Obama) in the corners for Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Erie.

Obama won just 13 of 67 counties, but won the important ones. Of the 2,990,274 votes the president got in the state, nearly a million of them came from two counties, Philadelphia and Allegheny.

Republicans now want to do away with the winner-take-all system and replace it with a system that awards electoral votes based on the winner in each congression al district. Sounds fair enough, until you realize that if the system had been in place in November, Mitt Romney would have won 12 electoral votes to Obama's 6, despite the 300,000 edge in the popular vote for the president. If the system had been in place nationally in November, President Obama's 5 million-vote popular win would have equaled a 14-vote electoral victory for Gov. Romney.

Neither the winner-take-all electoral approach nor the Congressional district proposal reflect the actual popular vote. Both are flawed, unnecessarily so. Each has a way of disenfranchising voters.

One way to make sure every vote in the state counts is to use simple math. Take the popular vote percentages and use that number to allocate electoral votes. It splits the electoral votes, but at least in a way that represents every voter.

That way, Pennsylvania's electoral results for each candidate would look more like the actual election, neither dramatically different nor upside down with the popular will.