U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., is the latest Democratic official to blast a Republican-crafted 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, R-9, of Chester. Pileggi introduced Senate Bill 538 on Feb. 21. It has been referred to the state Government Committee and has 12 Republican co-sponsors.
Casey voiced opposition to the bill in a letter, dated March 18, to Pileggi.
"I write to express my opposition to (Senate Bill 538), legislation recently introduced by you and 12 other state Senators to amend Pennsylvania’s Election Code," Casey said in the letter. "If enacted, (the bill) would drastically alter the method by which the Commonwealth allocates its 20 electoral votes and diminish the historical role Pennsylvania has played in electing our nation’s presidents. I respectfully urge you to reconsider this legislation."
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.
Casey said that as Pileggi’s bill moves forward, he hopes the bill is debated with complete transparency and in public hearings.
Erik Arneson, a spokesman for Pileggi, fired back at Casey. He has consistently stated that this bill is not a top priority this legislative session.
"Sen. Casey seems to have missed this fundamental point: There are no plans to advance the legislation at this time," Arneson said in an email. "If such plans develop, there will be a public hearing as the first step. I’ve said both of those things publicly so many times now that I feel silly saying them again, but there you go. Perhaps Sen. Casey and his staff should read some Pennsylvania newspapers. If they did, he would already know this."
John Rizzo, Casey’s spokesman, responded to Arneson’s statement in an email by saying, "It is welcome news that they don’t have plans to move this legislation forward."
Asked why Casey decided to weigh in roughly a month after the bill was introduced, Rizzo said, "Sen. Casey has been following this debate since the legislation was introduced and given that this has the potential to diminish the influence of Pennsylvania voters he thought it was important to weigh in. For over 200 years Pennsylvanians have spoken with one voice on presidential elections and that should continue. As Sen. Casey has said this is the is the wrong policy at the wrong time."