After the 2000 election recount drama, polling showed that most Americans wanted to replace the electoral vote system with direct popular election of the president.
But Americans generally don't pay much attention to the mechanics of how they choose the president. Politicians do pay attention, especially when presidential elections seem to be shaping up as close ones.
That explains the flurry of excitement in the political world over a Republican proposal to scrap Pennsylvania’s winner-take-all system of awarding its 20 electoral votes and instead allocate 18 of them based on the vote for president in each of the state’s congressional districts, 12 of which are now held by Republican members. The two other electoral votes would be awarded to the candidate who won the most votes statewide.
The proposal, sponsored by Republican Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi, and backed by Republican Gov. Tom Corbett, would give Pennsylvania the same method of allocating electoral votes used in Maine and Nebraska.
If enacted, this might help the 2012 Republican presidential nominee garner a dozen electoral votes in Pennsylvania and tip the scales of a White House victory.
Or it could backfire, if the nominee runs such a strong race that he would have won Pennsylvania outright under winner-take-all rules — as happened in 1988 and nearly happened in 2004. Pileggi’s plan might mean the GOP candidate would get only 11 or 12 electoral votes, rather than 20.