Pennsylvania GOP cooks up ugly electoral scheme

It’s not surprising that Pennsylvania Republicans would start to get a little frustrated when it comes to presidential politics. It’s a key swing state that’s generally pretty competitive, but in each of the last five cycles, Pennsylvanians have backed the Democratic candidate.

But there’s no reason to translate that frustration into an ugly scheme like this one.

A new proposal is pushing the often-forgotten Electoral College into the spotlight as Pennsylvania officials ponder the state’s role in next year’s presidential race.

Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi is trying to gather support to change the state’s “winner-takes-all” approach for awarding electoral votes. Instead, he’s suggesting that Pennsylvania dole them out based on which candidate wins each of the 18 congressional districts, with the final two going to the contender with the most votes statewide.

So far, the idea has received support from colleagues of the Delaware County Republican in the state House and from Republican Gov. Tom Corbett.

There’s no great mystery here. Barack Obama easily won Pennsylvania in 2008, and if he wins the state again next year, that’s 20 electoral votes — a significant prize. If Republicans can rig the game in advance of the election, and split up the state’s electoral votes by district, they can ensure at least half of Pennsylvania’s electoral votes will go to the GOP ticket, even if most of the state votes Democratic.

In a close national race, an obnoxious scheme like this can alter the entire presidential election, all because Republicans are afraid to fight on a level playing field. The appropriate response from the GOP should be to nominate a strong candidate and present a worthwhile agenda, not to shamelessly rig an election.

As Republicans have become increasingly radicalized, the “war on voting” has become far more intense. We see this in the voter-ID laws and restrictions on voter-registration drives, not to mention GOP efforts to undermine labor unions. But divvying up “blue” states’ electoral votes, while leaving “red” states as winner-take-all, is fundamentally offensive to how our democracy is supposed to operate.

And in case this weren’t quite offensive enough, Nick Baumann reports that Republican officials are also running things in Michigan, Ohio, and Wisconsin, and may follow Pennsylvania’s lead.

Kevin Drum added, “As recently as a couple of decades ago this would have been a bridge too far for most of the party’s mandarins: conservative pundits and senior GOP officials would have sounded off against it because it was just too raw a deal even for flinty political pros. But now we live in the era of Lee Atwater and Karl Rove and Tom DeLay and Fox News. There’s really no one left who might object to this merely out of a decent respect for institutional integrity and fairmindedness.”

Republicans are simply out of control. They know no limits; they have no shame.