Gaming the System: How the Republicans are trying to cheat their way to the White House

Background:

The new motto of the Republican Party seems to be, “If you can’t win, rig the game.”  In just the past few years, we’ve seen Republicans push voter ID laws that are meant to prevent young people, low-income people and people of color from having their say in elections.  They have tried to keep likely Democratic voters from the polls by placing limits on voter registration and early voting.  And Republican gerrymandering has become all too familiar: just this year, Virginia Republicans pulled a ‘dirty trick’, trying to redistrict their state while the Democrats’ backs were turned.

Now, Republicans have a new plan: rigging the Electoral College. Bills have been introduced in six states, and failed or stalled in five of them. But Pennsylvania Republicans are forging ahead. On February 21, state Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi introduced Senate Bill 538, which would fundamentally change the way Pennsylvania allocates its Electoral College votes. Pileggi’s plan would split up Pennsylvania’s 20 electoral votes, awarding them in proportion to the popular vote in the state, plus two for the winner. In 2012, President Obama won all 20 of Pennsylvania’s electoral votes. Under Pileggi’s system, he would have won just 12.  Eight electoral votes could change the outcome of a close election: just think of what happened in 2000.

What you can do if you live in Pennsylvania:

If you live in Pennsylvania, Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi and your State Senators need to know that Pennsylvanians won’t stand for these dirty tricks. Look up your state senator's contact information here.

Conversation Guidelines:
•Always be polite.  You will most likely speak with an aide, who will record the information and relay it to the Representative.
•You might be asked to provide your contact information.  This is so that the office can follow up with you if there are any questions.  Sometimes offices will send a follow-up letter as well.

Possible call script to Dominic Pileggi:
“Hello.  My name is ______ and I'm a Pennsylvanian. I'm calling to let Majority Leader Pileggi know that I do not support SB 538, which would change the way the state allocates its electoral votes and unfairly rig it in favor of Republican candidates. The bill would make Pennsylvania, its issues, and its residents less important in Presidential elections. I urge you to vote against Senate Bill 538. Thank you for your consideration.”

Possible call script to your State Senator:
“Hello. My name is ____ and I'm a constituent of Senator _____.  I’m calling today to ask the Senator to vote against Senate bill 538 that would change the way the state allocates its electoral votes and unfairly rig it in favor of Republican candidates. The bill would make Pennsylvania, its issues, and its residents less important in Presidential elections. I urge you to vote against Senate Bill 538. Thank you for your consideration.”

You may also wish to provide some detail as to why you don't support the provision.  Here are some suggestions:

  • Sour grapes: The bill represents a sour grapes attempt on the Republicans’ part to fix the Electoral College in their favor. Their loss in 2012 doesn’t entitle them to try and change the rules to make it easier to win. Elections should be won and lost on issues, not by gaming the system.
  • Pennsylvania matters: If the bill passes, Pennsylvania will become less important to Presidential elections. That means less attention to the issues that matter to Pennsylvanians. Pennsylvania’s diverse communities are a bellwether for the American electorate, and they deserve to have their say.
  • More debate: This issue is too important to be rammed through a single-party legislature and executive branch. Republicans might control both the legislature and the Governor’s mansion, but that shouldn’t mean they can fix the game in their favor. Decisions like this should be made slowly, in public, and on a bipartisan basis.  

Submit a letter to the editor:

Tips for writing letters to the editor:

  • Be brief. 150-200 words is usually the ideal length.
  • Keep it factual, and keep it focused on this issue. Strong letters that take on one issue are most likely to be published.
  • Include your contact information.

Why it matters beyond Pennsylvania:

Republican legislators in Virginia, Florida, Ohio, Wisconsin and Michigan have also proposed overhauling the way their states apportion electoral votes. It’s not an accident that these states are all closely-fought battleground states, worth a total of 106 electoral votes: even changing the way just one of these states allocates its electoral votes could be enough to alter the outcome of a close election. Right now, the bills in these states have stalled, but if the Pennsylvania bill passes, Republicans in these other states will be emboldened by its success. If you think it’s a bad idea to have Pennsylvania’s electoral votes rigged to favor the Republicans, imagine if it happens in two or three states- or all six.

What you can do if you live outside of Pennsylvania:

Sign our petition to show that Americans want a fair election fought on the issues of the day. Americans expect a fair debate and it is important to let your voice be heard.

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