HARRISBURG, Oct. 4, 2011— Encouraged by the testimony at today’s Senate State Government Committee public hearing on Pennsylvania’s Electoral College voting process, state Sen. Anthony H. Williams said the controversial legislation to change the current system is wrong for voters.
Pennsylvania presidential electors currently cast all votes for the candidate who wins the state’s popular vote.
Senate Bill 1282, sponsored by Senate Republican Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi (R-Chester), would change the current process to the “Congressional District Method,” in which the presidential candidate picks up individual congressional districts. Only two states, Maine and Nebraska, use this method.
While most witnesses at the hearing agreed that the current system is not perfect, they debated Pennsylvania voters’ influence in the presidential election under the current and proposed systems.
“I’m extremely concerned about the consequences of this legislation,” said Williams (D-Phila./Delaware), the Democratic chair of the Senate State Government Committee. “Throughout history, Americans have fought for a system that is more inclusive. I fear that Senate Bill 1282 is divisive and excludes certain sectors of our population.”
Williams said the legislation actually “turns back the clock” on voters’ rights by excluding more diverse voting districts, mostly found in southeastern Pennsylvania, in favor of less diverse populations.
“The governor’s support of this bill is chilling because it elevates one region of Pennsylvania over another,” Williams said. “The population in the southeast region of the state is arguably the most diverse. We have people of all persuasions and all faiths. To suggest that we take away their voices is duplicitous.
Williams also said that the governor’s focus on this issue is concerning at a time when Pennsylvania has ongoing financial strains.
“We are a battleground state. We attract candidates and all the national attention that comes with it. That attention also creates an economic stimulus for the state, from television ratings to hotels and restaurants,” Williams said. “I’m not sure why the governor would want to remove Pennsylvania from the playing field at a time when we are financially strapped.”
Additionally, a recent Quinnipiac University poll found that 52 percent of Pennsylvania registered voters oppose the Republican plan, and 57 percent said Republicans in the state Legislature want the switch to help Republican presidential candidates rather than reflect the will of the voters.
“While I respect Senator Pileggi and the governor, this legislation is divisive and perceived as a power grab,” Williams said. “People are out of work, our transportation infrastructure is crumbling and students are suffering from budget cuts to their schools, now is not the time to focus on political strategies. We need to put Pennsylvanians’ real needs first.”
Video and audio of the senator’s reaction to the public hearing is now available online at www.senatoranthonyhwilliams.com