Pa., the electoral battleground: What you need to know about the Keystone State and the Electoral College

By: - November 3, 2020 7:19 am

Remember, the president is not, technically, elected by your votes. They are instead selected by the Electoral College, a system where each state gets one vote for every representative they have in Congress, for a minimum of three electoral votes per state.

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There was chatter and innuendo — denied by state Republican officials and office holders at the time  — of a plan to use the General Assembly to appoint these electors. 

Earlier in the United States history, that is how the Electoral College was chosen. And the  U.S. Constitution leaves choosing electors up to such Manner as the [state] Legislature thereof may direct.”

In the 1930’s, Pennsylvania’s state Legislature did choose, writing into state law that the presidential electors are chosen by voters, Bruce Ledewitz, a Pennsylvania constitutional law professor at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh.

Any change to this process would have to be signed by Gov. Tom Wolf, according to an internal analysis done by the General Assembly’s Legislative Reference Bureau, a nonpartisan office that drafts legislation. And any disagreement over the law here would go to the state Supreme Court and its liberal majority, seemingly giving Democrats an advantage.

But Republicans could counter by making the issue a federal, constitutional fight, said Mike Dimino, a law professor at Widener Commonwealth Law School in suburban Harrisburg. 

Republicans could argue that the federal constitution gives all power to the Legislature to appoint electors without regard for existing state law. Such a decision would fall to the U.S. Supreme Court and its conservative majority.

Meanwhile, the U.S. House of Representatives also has a role. If there’s an Electoral College tie, or a dispute over who’s delegates should represent the state, the lower chamber decides who gets to represent the state in the electoral college. 

So, if Harrisburg tries to set on slate of delegates, but the state’s popular vote goes another way, that’ll fall to the House.

The House would vote on Electoral College issues by state, not by individual member. Currently, despite being in the minority, Republicans control the most state delegations. That could change on Election Day

If this is all confusing and frustrating, that’s okay. We don’t really know what happens if Pennsylvania’s electors are challenged, Dimino noted. 

“No state has tried this,” he said.

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Stephen Caruso
Stephen Caruso

Stephen Caruso is a former senior reporter with Pennsylvania Capital-Star. Before working with the Capital-Star he covered Pennsylvania state government for The PLS Reporter.