Pileggi ignited the latest debate by suggesting Pennsylvania shift to a congressional district voting model, one currently used by only two states, Maine and Nebraska.
The plan was immediately endorsed by Gov. Corbett, but just as swiftly opposed by other GOP leaders - including members of the state's Republican congressional delegation - and Democrats alike. Chief among concerns was that it would diminish Pennsylvania's clout in presidential elections.
Speaking before the Senate State Government committee Tuesday, Luke Bernstein, the governor's deputy chief of staff, cast the proposal as an attempt to protect the "integrity" of individual votes across the state.
He said the goal was to avoid effectively disenfranchising the millions of Pennsylvanians who vote for the losing candidate in presidential elections. It also would better reflect the regional and demographic diversity of the state, Bernstein said.
"What is best in Scranton may not be best in Smethport, what is best in Erie may not be best in Ephrata, and what is best in Tamaqua may not be best in Ford City," Bernstein said. Allocating electoral votes by congressional district, he argued, "truly transforms a national election into a local neighborhood discussion, debate, discourse, and ultimately, a decision, as to who will best serve that area."
But state Sen. Anthony H. Williams (D., Phila.), the ranking Democrat on the committee, hammered the plan for attempting to "disenfranchise Philadelphians."
"Not only would the proposed change to the Electoral College disproportionately affect the value of votes in the city of Philadelphia, it would ruin Pennsylvania's political clout on the national level," Williams said. "This is a blatant political power grab by Republican leadership."
Two of the state's leading political scientists, Chris Borick of Muhlenberg College and Terry Madonna of Franklin & Marshall College, said Pileggi's plan would reduce voter turnout and end Pennsylvania's status as a battleground state.
"No doubt we would lose overall impact as a competitive state," Madonna told the committee.
The Harrisburg Patriot has more details:
Some testimony, intended to be supportive, was less than convincing.The committee chair is coy about whether he will allow the bill to advance:
“I think the country should do this, and I think Pennsylvania should lead the way,” said former state Republican Chair Alan Novak. “It isn’t perfect, but the system we have isn’t perfect, either.”
Even the testimony of Forbes magazine Editor Randall Lane — solicited by the forces backing Pileggi's bill — suggested the proposal was a bad idea.
“Someday, I dream of voting in Pennsylvania,” Lane said, comparing the state’s clout in national campaigns to the minimal attention his native New York gets. “Here, the winner-take-all system is a boon. Every vote in Pennsylvania counts equally, and presidential campaigns must scour every nook and cranny.”
"I wanted to give it a fair shot," said McIlhinney, of the Pileggi bill, adding he will gauge reaction in the Senate Republican caucus before bringing it up for a committee vote.However, if Pileggi convinces McIlhinney to advance the bill from committee, it can still pass. In Pennsylvania, no one and nothing is safe while the legislature is in session in Harrisiburg.