Counting Votes

The Republicans might have won the 2012 Election by counting some citizens as less than full voters. Proposed Electoral College legislation (HB 94) may be based on cringe-worthy history.


Legislative leaders in Pennsylvania are busy concocting schemes designed to win elections if they can’t win the popular vote.  Proposed Senate Bill 1282 would have awarded Electoral College votes based on the results in each of the state's congressional districts.  Republicans won 13 of 18 races in November of 2012.

The latest plan is House Bill 94. According to Republicans, the  “winner take all” concept is not representational.  So a number of Republican states that lost the popular vote to President Obama, Virginia and Pennsylvania included, have introduced legislation that would assign Electoral College votes to Republican controlled Congressional Districts.   They maintain that the popular vote does not reflect the “real sense of what the people want”.  Why should Philadelphia and Pittsburgh have such weight in allocating Presidential electors in Pennsylvania?

Humorist Paul Bibeau, (http://paulbibeau.blogspot.com/2013/01), points out a numerical oddity about the effects of the proposed Virginia law that turns out, upon reflection, to be more stinging than funny: “The (Virginia) bill counts an Obama voter as 3/5 of a person.”  That is because, “Obama voters would have received almost exactly 3/5 of the electoral vote compared to their actual population — 30.7 percent of the electoral vote over 51 percent of the popular vote.”

He is referring to the curious history in allocating Congressional representation according to population.   At the time there was apparently no way that the Southern states would accept representation to Congress on a strict population count.  Anti-slavery northerner James Wilson of Pennsylvania came up with a compromise. Blacks in the Southern states would be counted as “three-fifths” of a person. That way, it would take 50,000 people (instead of 30,000) in a district to earn congressional representation.  The 3/5 Compromise settled the issue of how slave populations would be considered in determining representation in the House of Representatives. Although slaves were not citizens, and could not vote, the Southern states wanted them counted as residents for apportionment purposes.  

The “Three-fifths Compromise of 1787” gave the otherwise small white populations of the South an equal footing with the more populous North.  Today the idea of considering any citizen as 3/5 of a person is too horrible to contemplate.

If legislation like HB 94 had been in effect in November, designating particular areas for an apportionment purpose would have been true of the presidential election in each of the states considering the new rules.  Based on control of House Districts by Republicans, 12 or 13 of Pennsylvania’s twenty Electoral College votes would have gone to Governor Romney, 4 or 5 to President Obama.  Not quite the 3/5ths rule, but close.  The concept holds.  The Republicans could have won the 2012 Election by counting some citizens as less than full voters.  Not slaves, but voters held captive by one party changing the rules to benefit themselves.

There are two important thoughts here.  First, every citizen must contact his/her Representative to the Pennsylvania House to demand a NO vote on HB 94.   It’s cringe-worthy, with negative connotations about the value of any vote. Secondly, the underlying concept can be equally applied to either party.  If the party majorities change, then Democrats could control the apportioned votes.  Bad law is not good for anybody, now or ever.


Ann Melby Shenkle

January 28, 2013

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Randy Macon January 30, 2013 at 12:17 PM
Mr. Neamond, I made reference to no particular proposed legislation but rather to the general push in 'blue' states to split electoral votes by assigning them according to the winner of each congressional district. In Pennsylvania, and also nationally, a majority of congressional races went to Republicans, despite the fact that more people voted Democratic than Republican. If electoral votes had been assigned according to who won the Congressional district, Romney would have been elected president despite losing the popular vote by 4%. It is that potential result that Republicans seek, a way to gain control of the government without ever having to develop policies which a majority of voters would support.
David Neamand January 30, 2013 at 04:37 PM
Randy, I really am more focused on Pennsylvania legislation. One outcome or another, The fact remains the same that "all or nothing" electoral states like Pennsylvania are not fair representation of and by the citizens within that state. I also am firmly of the belief that state and local community supersede the federal level when it comes to elections. Results are what they are, yet you would place the needs of one person being elected over another more important then preserving the rights of a local community's rights. This is a problem within this country when the need to promote an ideology or political system takes prescience over the rights of it's citizens
Ann Melby Shenkle January 30, 2013 at 05:42 PM
Mr. Neamand, you raise the point that all citizens are not represented. I rest my case. Under the "new" law, citizens in other than Republican districts will NOT be represented at all save for "two" electors! In the winner take all system, each vote counts the same. Mr. Neamand, you may also be interested in knowing that Republican leaders Paul Ryan and Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin regard re-apportionment by congressional district as drawing attention away from the real issues that confront their states. Gov. McDonnell’s position in Virginia is that “cheating to win” is never going to be a good idea. Haley Barbour of Mississippi has said that “smart Republicans realize how manipulative it looks, and that it could come back to bite them”. Mr. Macon is right to suggest that this situation should concern us all, in both parties.
David Neamand January 31, 2013 at 03:00 PM
Ann, Again you are putting your politics in front of the citizens of local communities within Pennsylvania. The fact is that even the likes of former governor Rendell have stated that the bill would be fairer (I Cite) http://www.phillyburbs.com/news/local/courier_times_news/opinion/editorials/all-or-nothing/article_cfd917b6-461b-59a9-87d6-ad37930bc41b.html. I also cite this article on the electoral college an an excellent one giving background: http://www.article-3.com/the-electoral-college-democracy-99747. As I stated prior, and as a student of history the founders of this nation intended power to flow up from local communities to counties to states and finally to the federal government. All or nothing electoral states do not allow that to happen, and for those to selfishly oppose a correction to the benefit of their own political views demonstrate a huge flaw that has developed within our society. We used to be patriotic and put the country first, now we have politicians who put the needs of their pockets first, and citizens who vote those who benefit THEM the most even if that hurts the country or community the most.
Mike Braun January 31, 2013 at 09:24 PM
@ann it is important to note that you make a point to make a racial statement based on 3/5 rule in the constitution. You cite that this rule was racial and comparing it to the current GOP. You need to re read some of history books or get new ones and please take into account why the 3/5 rule was put in there. Douglass made the determination that the constitution was an anti slavery document. In order for the South to get more representation they would need to abolish slavery which ultimately happened. Lets not get into democrats and the racial past they have. Look at the state of PA and it is mostly republican except for both big cities. We can make the determination that your comments are Rep are underrepresented on the federal level. But we should reflect that this country has a backwards power structure. Should be local, state, Federal.


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