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Tom Murse

Battleground State Might Change How it Awards Electoral Votes

By December 4, 2012

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Pennsylvania FlagPennsylvania plays an important role in every presidential election. Its large number of votes in the Electoral College - it now has 20, which are awarded winner-take-all to the highest vote-getter - assures the Keystone State gets its share of attention from candidates of both parties.

But Republican leaders there, tired of seeing a Democrat win all of the electoral votes every four years including in Election 2012, have come up with a new plan: They want Pennsylvania to become the first state in the nation to distribute electoral votes on a proportional basis.

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In other words, a candidate who wins the popular vote in Pennsylvania would no longer get all 20 electoral votes but only the portion that reflects his margin in the statewide vote tally. In the 2012 presidential election, for example, President Barack Obama carried the state - a Democrat has won there every presidential election since 1992 - with about 52 percent of the vote.

Under the new, proportional method of distributing electoral votes, Obama would have received 12 electoral votes, not all 20, according to the Pennsylvania Independent. The Republican nominee, Mitt Romney, would have picked up eight votes from Pennsylvania instead of none. Obama's margin, then, would have been a mere four votes.

Pennsylvania would become the first state to distribute its electoral votes in such a fashion; Nebraska and Maine, the only two states that don't award their votes on a winner-take-all basis, distribute electoral votes to winners in each congressional district.

"This advantage of this system is clear: It much more accurately reflects the will of the voters in our state," Pennsylvania's Senate Republican leader, Dominic Pileggi, is quoted as saying.

Democrats in the state described the proposal as being "sour grapes" among the GOP. "The remedy for losing an election is not to change the rules of that election, but to offer more compelling candidates who actually have a compelling message," Democratic state Sen. Daylin Leach told The Philadelphia Inquirer.

While moving toward a proportion method of distributing electoral votes might reflect the will of the votes more accurately, it would also diminish the important of the state to candidates. As the Independent points out, Obama's victory in Pennsylvania would have been worth only 4 points, not 20, "putting the state on par with states such as Idaho, Rhode Island and New Hampshire."

In the end, though, such a change wouldn't have mattered at all. Obama would have been the victor, only by a smaller margin.

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