Please Support the Philadelphia Jewish Voice


Philadelphia Jewish Voice’s board members celebrate winning second place for online presence in the Pennsylvania Newspaper Association’s 2011 Newspaper of the Year Competition.

Dear Readers,

The Philadelphia Jewish Voice is a completely virtual organization. All of our authors are unpaid volunteers, who write because they love to do so. We run a very tight ship, with few expenses and almost no advertising.

In order to continue doing what we do, we rely on you, our readers, to contribute financially.

We expect to implement some exciting changes to our site in the coming year. Please give as generously as possible — no amount is too modest.

Thank you!

To pay by credit card or paypal, click here:

Checks should be sent to the Philadelphia Jewish Voice treasurer, Eric Smolen, 327 Pembroke Road, Bala Cynwyd, PA 19004.

The Philadelphia Jewish Voice is organized pursuant to Pennsylvania’s non-profit corporation law. We have tax-exempt status under IRS Code Section 501(c)(3). Contributions are tax-deductible to the fullest extent of the law.

More ways in which you can help after the jump.
The Philadelphia Jewish Voice is an online community-based newspaper and we appreciate your commitment of any kind. Besides financial donations, you can help us in many ways:

Sincerely yours,

Dan Loeb,
Publisher

Ronit Treatman
President

Philadelphia Jewish Voice Gives Away Free Tickets to Jewtopia

The Philadelphia Jewish Voice will give away two pairs of free tickets to Bryan Fogel and Sam Wolfson’s film adaptation of their hit comedy Jewtopia, which premieres Friday. The movie stars Ivan Sergei, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Joel David Moore, Jamie-Lynn Sigler, Jon Lovitz and Rita Wilson.

In order to be able to win, just click here to sign yourself or a friend up for our free weekly newsletter. Use the comment field to indicate that you are interested in a pair of tickets. Two new subscribers will be chosen at random. Each will receive a pair of tickets, good to see the film at the AMC Theater in Plymouth Meeting, Monday-Thursday during the film’s run.

Plot summary follows the jump.
In the movie, Christian O’Connell (Ivan Sergei) has met the girl of his dreams in Alison Marks (Jennifer Love Hewitt). Unfortunately, Christian told Alison (who happens to be a rabbi’s daughter) that his name was Avi Rosenberg, and that he was Jewish — neither of which are true.

Desperate to keep up the illusion, he turns to his childhood best friend, Adam Lipschitz (Joel David Moore) to teach him how to “act Jewish.” But Adam has problems of his own, with a fiancé (Jamie-Lynn Sigler) pushing him closer to a mental breakdown as their wedding approaches.

With the best intentions, Adam and Christian attempt to help each other out, but things quickly go completely and hilariously off the rails.

Please support The Philadelphia Jewish Voice

We at The Philadelphia Jewish Voice continuously strive for excellence. In order to improve your experience reading our publication, reach more readers and have a greater impact, we are in the process of upgrading our website. We need to raise $1,250 in order to reach our goal to make this possible. Please support us in this endeavor. No amount is too small, and every dollar raised will help us reach this very achievable goal. I hope that you will enjoy all our upcoming improvements.

Your tax-deductible donations will help give Voice to the Greater Philadelphia Jewish community.

To pay by credit card or PayPal, just click one of the buttons below:

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or visit www.pjvoice.com/donate.html or send a check to:

Eric Smolen, Treasurer
The Philadelphia Jewish Voice
327 Pembroke Road
Bala Cynwyd, PA 19004

The Philadelphia Jewish Voice is an online community-based newspaper and we appreciate your commitment of any kind. Besides financial donations, you can help us in many ways:

Thank you!
 


Happy New Year From The Philadelphia Jewish Voice


Philadelphia Jewish Voice’s board members celebrate being recognized with Second Place for Online Presence in the Pennsylvania Newspaper Association’s 2011 Newspaper of the Year Competition.

Dear Readers,

All of us at The Philadelphia Jewish Voice wish you a happy and prosperous new year.  It has been our pleasure to share our original content and creativity with you over the course of this past year.  We are unpaid volunteers, who do this work because we love it.  

I invite you to contribute your tax deductible donation to The Philadelphia Jewish Voice before this year ends.  Every dollar helps!  All monies will be used to improve our publishing platform and to enhance your reading experience.  

Sincerely yours,
Ronit Treatman
President

Jewish Heritage Night with the Philadelphia Soul


You are invited to join the Philadelphia Jewish Voice and the Greater Philadelphia Jewish community at the Wells Fargo Center for an exciting, family-friendly evening of arena football as the Philadelphia Soul take on the Pittsburgh Power during the Soul’s Jewish Heritage Night, Sunday, June 24 at 6:05 pm. In addition to the non-stop action that arena football brings, the evening will also feature kosher food and Jewish themed entertainment.





Each ticket costs $28.

Ticket prices have been reduced to $19!

Tickets can be used for Jewish Heritage night or for any 2012 Philadelphia Soul regular season home game. A portion of the proceeds will support the Philadelphia Jewish Voice.

Contact publisher@pjvoice.com if you have any questions.

See you on June 24th!

Meetup with Philadelphia Jewish Voice Writers At LimmudPhilly

If you are planning on attending Limmud Philly this weekend, be sure to stop by the Philadelphia Jewish Voice’s table this Sunday, April 29 any time between 11am and 3pm. You’ll get a chance to meet our Living Judaism editor Rabbi Goldie Milgram, our Kosher Table editor Ronit Treatman, myself and other members of the Philadelphia Jewish Voice community. There will be free bumper stickers, books and mitzvah cards available for purchase, and you’ll be able to see what herbs Ronit has growing in her garden.

If you weren’t thinking of attending Limmud Philly 2012, please do. Click here for details about this year’s Limmud, and see our coverage of

Please come. We would love to meet you.

  • Location: Friends Select School, 17th & Benjamin Franklin Parkway, Philadelphia, PA
  • Time: Sunday, April 29, 2012, 11am-3pm.


Mitzvah Brei: Don’t Waste Those Leftovers!

Matzo brei — by Ronit Treatman

If you host a Passover Seder or two, there is a good chance that you will have a refrigerator full of unconsumed food.  The principle of Bal Tashkhit (Kiddushin 32a) is basic to Jewish Law.  “Bal Tashkhit” means “do not destroy.”  We are instructed to avoid senseless waste or damage.  When I find creative new ways to serve my Passover surplus, it feels like I am performing a mitzvah!  How can you get people to enjoy the uneaten fare from your festive meal?  Incorporate it with the huge supply of matza and eggs that are necessary to prepare for Passover.  Dress up your matza brei (fried matza) and prepare satisfying repasts for your friends and family.

More after the jump.
roasted peppersVegetable side dishes are colorful and versatile.  Roasted asparagus, steamed artichokes, braised carrots, baked beets, sautéed mushrooms, or grilled red peppers may make an appearance at our Seder.  Any leftovers are perfect in a matza brei.

Vegetable Matza Brei

  • 6 squares of matza
  • 1 bunch green onions
  • Any leftover vegetables
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • 4 eggs
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Garlic
  1. Moisten the matza with cold water.  
  2. Break up the matza in a bowl.
  3. Mix the eggs into the matza.
  4. In a frying pan, heat the olive oil.  
  5. Sautee the green onions.  
  6. Add the leftover vegetables.
  7. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and garlic.
  8. Pour the matza-egg mixture over the vegetables.  
  9. Scramble until the egg is cooked through.
  10. Serve immediately!

This matza brei is moist, chewy, and garlicky.  It is the perfect Passover comfort food.

Most of us serve some sort of meat dish for the main course of our Seder.  How can we extend what is left in a delicious way?  By copying an inventive dish concocted in China: Egg Foo Young!  We will envelop our “lotus egg” in matza!

Chicken, Beef, Lamb, or Turkey Egg Foo Young Matza Brei

Sauce For The Egg Foo Young Matza Brei

  • 4 tablespoons kosher for Passover chicken or beef bouillon
  • 1 teaspoon of walnut oil
  • 2 teaspoons pomegranate syrup
  • 1 tablespoon dry sherry
  • 4 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  1. Place all the ingredients in a pot and bring to a boil.  
  2. Simmer for 15 minutes.

Sauteed Mushrooms & OnionsEgg Foo Young Matza Brei

  • 1/4 cup cooked chicken, beef, lamb, or turkey; cubed
  • 6 eggs
  • 1 bunch green onions, cut up
  • 1 celery rib, sliced
  • 1 teaspoon fresh ginger, minced
  • 1/4 cup sliced mushrooms
  • 1 green bell pepper, cut up
  • Olive oil
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  1. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet.  Over medium heat, stir-fry the meat of your choice, ginger, green onions, celery, mushrooms, and bell pepper.
  2. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  3. Set the mixture aside.
  4. Moisten the matza with cold water.  
  5. Break up the matza in a bowl.
  6. Mix the eggs into the matza.
  7. Add the vegetable mixture to the eggs and matza.
  8. Heat one tablespoon of olive oil in a large frying pan.  Pour in the matza-meat-egg-vegetable mixture.  Cook over medium heat.  When the bottom turns golden-brown, flip it over.
  9. Serve with the sauce on the side.

This version of egg foo young is salty, chewy, and very satisfying.  The sauce adds a touch of vaguely familiar exoticism.  

Charoset In The MakingCharoset, a wine-infused, sweet, crunchy fruit-and-nut paste is one of the most delicious treats on the Seder table.  How can we inventively use what is left?  Transform it into a breakfast or dessert matza brie.

Sweet Charoset Matza Brie

  • 6 squares of matza
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • 4 eggs
  • Charoset
  • Powdered sugar
  1. Place the charoset in a microwave-safe bowl.  Cover and heat for two minutes.
  2. Moisten the matza with cold water.  
  3. Break up the matza in a bowl.
  4. Mix the eggs into the matza.
  5. Heat the olive oil in a frying pan.  
  6. Pour the matza-egg mixture into the pan.
  7. When the bottom of the matza brei turns a golden-brown, flip it over.
  8. When the other side has cooked through, spread the charoset over it.
  9. Sprinkle with powdered sugar.

This sweet and crunchy matza brie is a perfect pick-me-up any time.  It goes especially well with some hot coffee or tea.

Passover leftovers present us with the opportunity to be frugally innovative.  As I reposition the foods that remain in my refrigerator, I remember a Yiddish expression that both of my grandmothers were fond of.  They would exclaim, “Du vest dos uf essen!” “You will eat this up!”  Chag Sameach!

Academic Transfer


In order to understand her identity, an Irish Catholic student at the University of Virginia had to follow her passion: a major in Jewish Studies

Editor’s note: Anne Grant worked as editorial assistant for the Philadelphia Jewish Voice during the summer of 2011. She had to step down in the Fall when she returned to her studies in Virgina, but she continues to “tweet” for us. (Follow #PJVoice on twitter.) She was a great help, and we are still looking for someone to continue her work for us.

Anne’s story is reprinted courtesy of Anne Grant and Slate following the jump.
“You’re running away from who you are,” a family member warned me before I left for a spring break trip with my university’s Hillel. I couldn’t blame him: I am a blue-eyed, baptized Catholic, the product of a lifelong religious education set in classrooms with crucifixes hanging on the walls and statues of the Virgin Mary standing in the doorways. Most of my childhood classmates came, as I did, from large Catholic families with conspicuously Irish and Italian surnames. Despite my total immersion in all things Catholic throughout my upbringing, however, I always felt acutely estranged from both the Church’s religious precepts and Catholic culture overall. But on the cusp of that trip, I felt for the first time that, rather than escaping from an identity, I was actually starting to figure mine out.

A few years before, a totally unexpected encounter with the Jewish Studies department at University of Virginia turned into a consuming intellectual passion. Now, three years and many experiences with Jewish life later, I have found that Jewish Studies has become much more than simply an academic pursuit for me. In the strange, twisted, but amazing trip that has been my college experience, Judaism has provided me with the friends, mentors, values, and spiritual community that I didn’t even know I had been seeking. What started as an avowedly intellectual interest has influenced the entirety of my life.


I grew up in a very loving, very religious Irish Catholic family in the Philadelphia suburbs-the kind that flies a surprisingly tasteful flag featuring the scene of Jesus’s birth, illuminated by a spotlight, outside our front door during the Christmas holidays. During my childhood, my parents brought my three siblings and me to Mass every Sunday, where we squirmed and giggled our way through the weekly sermons. Cultural Catholicism pervaded our lives, from the elaborate religious rituals that we regularly observed to the social conservatism of our parents.

In ninth grade, I was enrolled in a strict, all-girls’ Catholic high school-a world of assigned lunch table seats and abstinence-only sex education. Rather than bulldogs or wildcats, we were, unfortunately, the Marians. Marians were required to observe all sorts of rules, the most undeniably humiliating one being the requirement to introduce formal dates to a welcoming line of benign but intimidating nuns.

We still had fun, of course. My friends and I invented imaginative games in our Latin class and threw the occasional breakfast tailgate at my parking spot before homeroom. We joked incessantly about our mandatory yearly assemblies with a local pro-life, chastity-promoting Catholic organization, from which we always received bright red stickers that asserted, “I’m Worth Waiting For!” But, though frustrated with Catholicism, by a large majority we identified with the politically and socially conservative views of our parents. I discussed with pleasure “building a wall” for the “illegals” and withholding taxes for the wealthy, and my government class contained one endearing but lonely liberal-a spike-collar-wearing Hillary Clinton devotee with multiple piercings and a pink streak in her hair.

When I started my first year at the University of Virginia, I felt ecstatic to finally experience freedom. Like so many of my peers’ college choices, my own decision to attend U.Va had been uninformed; I had no idea what I wanted to study or who I even was. My chance introduction to Judaism occurred when one of the first students I met, on one of my very first days at school, invited me to attend a Shabbat dinner at U.Va’s Hillel. Being a spacey 18-year-old with virtually no social inhibitions, I agreed.

At that time-before the Hillel’s new multimillion-dollar addition was completed-Shabbat dinners took place on long, crowded tables on old hardwood floors in two rooms featuring posters about Israel and ceiling-high bookcases filled with texts about Judaism. The warm lighting, the books, and the other students who seemed suspended in that hazy, magic time between the end of the school day and the weekend ahead-it all seemed so homey. I was utterly, inexplicably besotted. Of course, I was also utterly, comprehensively Catholic.

But, as I now realize, this new exposure to Judaism coincided with the emergence of some festering issues with Catholicism’s theological precepts. That fall, I enrolled in a course about the Hebrew Bible-during which it dawned on me that no one, including me, had to read the Bible as God’s Word. Still, I wasn’t sure what this meant for observance. During my Bible professor’s office hours, I would interrogate the petite, bewildered woman about her belief in God and Christianity. Repeatedly, she replied that she couldn’t share with me her own personal views, only the academic discourse.

The following semester I enrolled in a Jewish history course. I was astounded by the Jewish historical narrative and Jews’ contributions to intellectual and cultural life despite one horrendous instance of persecution after another. The American Jewish immigrant experience seemed particularly fascinating: Yiddish theater, Tin Pan Alley, you name it-for whatever reason, I was into it.

With the help of my obliging Jewish history professor, who took the time to respond to my theological queries during office hours with even more thought-provoking responses, I began to make peace with the religious teachings of my upbringing and explore new religious philosophies. And then he made an unexpected suggestion: that I consider majoring in Jewish Studies. Having no better ideas at the time, I decided to pursue it.

The next year, I became even more involved in Jewish life. I started going to Shabbat dinners every Friday night with my growing network of Jewish friends, several of whom I met in my quirky, close-knit beginners’ Hebrew class. One weeknight at Hillel, I was startled to find myself teaching a recent convert how to braid challah. I also took an incredible class about Jewish philosophy with a soft-spoken professor who explained the development of Jewish thought from Spinoza through post-Holocaust thinkers. From him, I learned for the first time about the compatibility between atheism and Jewish religious observance. Now, here was a philosophy that I could get behind! As a lifelong skeptic, I loved Judaism’s encouragement of theological inquiry, of questioning rather than knowing the answers. In addition, as I read more about Jewish thinkers who had existed on social and religious margins because of their Jewishness, I felt an odd affinity with them. In my (somewhat dramatic) perception, I was the ultimate Jew: a non-Christian, non-Jewish insider-outsider who perilously straddled the lines of membership in both communities. I didn’t fit anywhere.


Through Hillel, I also formed close friendships with several older, intellectual Jewish students, who began to influence my increasingly left-leaning views with their advocacy of typically liberal political causes and interest in tikkun olam.

One spring, I accompanied them to Miami for one of Hillel’s weeklong service trips-the group’s only non-Jew. I didn’t really know why I wanted to go on a specifically Jewish trip, but I’m glad I did. While in Miami, we spent time at the Jewish Federation there. As we sat in the Federation’s conference room, festooned with blue-and-white crepe decorations, we listened to speeches about Israel advocacy, social justice, and the 4,000-year-old Jewish legacy. Surprised at the fervor of these talks by wealthy and influential Jewish leaders who were mostly middle-aged men, I looked around at my group quizzically, but no one else even batted an eye. Despite my friendships with everyone in the group, I was suddenly aware that I lacked the exposure to the kinds of people and conversation that my Jewish friends had. No matter how much I learned in school, I could not replicate the actual lived experience of American Jews without having grown up as one.

I began to hate explaining that yes, I am a Jewish Studies major but, no, I am not actually Jewish. When my parents’ friends brought it up at dinner parties or during holidays when I went home for break, I tried to change the subject immediately or talk about my siblings’ lives instead. I think that many of these people from home suspect that I am using my academic life as an act of rebellion, the intellectual’s equivalent to selling drugs or getting a navel ring. (I would argue, though, that selling drugs seems a lot more profitable to me than majoring in Jewish Studies.) And all along, I kept vehemently claiming that the religion itself did not interest me.

During my third year in college, I enrolled in a class about Jewish ritual. I had to: It was a required course. Sitting in the back row with one of my equally disinterested friends, I felt only annoyance. I would have rather taken a class about Israel or Zionism, and here I was wasting time learning about Jewish weddings, bar mitzvahs, and the like.

As the class progressed, however, I had to admit that I liked the way our professor elucidated the connection between important life events and their physical recognition with rituals. Once, this professor assigned us a short paper with which we were to record our observations of an on-campus Jewish religious event. I took the assignment in a different direction by composing an affectionate portrayal of Jewish life as I had come to know it with a description of Hillel’s Yom Kippur services. I talked about my Hillel crew-my friend whose parents begged her to show up on Friday evenings and High Holidays in the hopes that she would defy the crushingly majority-Christian demographics of U.Va and one day meet a nice Jewish boy. I also talked about my token “intellectual” Jewish friends, the “eat-and-run” crowd of scruffy, Doonesbury lookalikes who showed up for High Holiday dinners and left conveniently before services. I went on and on, comparing the march of students to services from Hillel to that of kids on the way to a much revered but dreaded summer camp tradition. Once again, as a student of Jewish history and culture, I observed these Yom Kippur services from within the community but ultimately outside it.

I expected a C or C-minus with instructions to follow directions next time, but instead I received an A+, with a request to attend my professor’s office hours sometime. I began visiting her often; we talked about religion and identity in depth, and I began to consider the obvious benefits of participation in a spiritual community.


I admit that my situation is an odd one. Having traveled to Israel and completed most of my Jewish Studies course requirements, I am embarking on my last semester at U.Va and feeling very much a part of the Jewish community. I’ll be finishing an undergraduate thesis about the U.Va Jewish community, and I plan to apply to graduate school for Jewish Studies in a year or two. When in conversation with someone about Jewish life or Jewish traditions, I often accidentally say the word “us” or “we” when referring to the Jewish community. If I find a guy at U.Va inexplicably unattractive, I sometimes find myself explaining to my friends that he is, regrettably, way too goyish-looking. When Friday afternoons roll around, my friends-Jewish and non-Jewish-know to expect a probably bossy-sounding mass text message from me inviting them to Hillel that evening. Unlike most of my Jewish friends, however, I don’t receive any pressure to go there, or to fast on Yom Kippur, or to meet a nice Jewish boy.

And I have come to increasingly dislike Christmas-the buildup, the hype, the packed malls, and the materialism. (As Jewish holidays literally celebrate suffering, I think they would be a welcome and interesting change for me!) And I have made the decision, however reluctantly, to formally convert in the future. But, while this certainly sits toward the top of my to-do list post-graduation, I am not looking forward to the process. Conversion seems like a formality, a “box-checking,” to publicly legitimize the group affiliation that I felt very strongly and naturally from the beginning of my relationship with the Jewish community.

I do sometimes worry that some karmic Christian retribution will one day bite me in the tuchus. What if one day I have children and end up producing little self-hating Jews who bury themselves in Philip Roth and major in Christian Studies in college? What if they only support Israel so that Jesus has a place to land during the apocalypse? For now, though, I have enough on my hands with my own identity.

Anne Grant is a student at the University of Virginia.

The Philadelphia Jewish Voice Wins Online Presence Award!


The Philadelphia Jewish Voice‘s Board of Directors.
Front row: Ronit Treatman (Food editor), Adena Potok (Israel editor), Rabbi Goldie Milgram (Judaism editor), Bonnie Squires (Vice President), Hannah Lee.
Back row: John Oliver Mason (Board secretary), Dan Loeb (Publisher), Eric Smolen (Treasurer) and Prof. Perry Dane.
Not present: Alan Tuttle (Vice President), Dr. Lisa Grunberger (Art & Culture Editor), Dr. Ted Tapper and Bruce Ticker.

— by Ronit Treatman

The Pennsylvania Newspaper Association recognized the Philadelphia Jewish Voice‘s achievements in their 2011 Newspaper of the Year Competition. The Philadelphia Jewish Voice was awarded second place in Division VI. As a free online volunteer-based community newspaper, we are proud to have bested competitors which have full-time staff funded by their paid subscribers.

While our competitors can rely on subscription and ad revenue, we depend on the good will and support of our readers. Your tax-deductible donation to the Philadelphia Jewish Voice will give voice to our community.
To pay by credit card or Paypal, click here:

or send a check to: Eric Smolen, Treasurer, Philadelphia Jewish Voice, 327 Pembroke Rd., Bala Cynwyd, PA 19004. Please consider the Philadelphia Jewish Voice in your end-of-year tax planning.

The Philadelphia Jewish Voice‘s writers conduct extensive research and analysis in order to provide relevant, meaningful content that has engaged and informed our readers since our start in 2005. We are dedicated to addressing the important social, political and cultural issues facing our community in a spirit of honesty, integrity and diversity.

You can also help support the Philadelphia Jewish Voice by advertising your synagogue, school, business or product with us. You can target our numerous readers with inexpensive online ads.

The Philadelphia Jewish Voice is looking to hire an online assistant editor to take our publication to the next level. This is your opportunity to make your voice heard, and to work with a fabulous team of people. For more information, please contact the publisher.

More after the jump.


Philadelphia Jewish Voice officers. John Oliver Mason (Board secretary), Bonnie Squires (Vice President), Dan Loeb (Publisher) and Eric Smolen (Treasurer). Not present: Alan Tuttle (Vice President).

In addition to our current Board of Directors pictured above, we would like to recognize the many contributors and devoted volunteers who have made the Philadelphia Jewish Voice what it is. These include:


The Philadelphia Jewish Voice is organized pursuant to Pennsylvania’s non-profit corporation law. We have tax-exempt status under IRS Code Section 501(c)(3). Contributions are tax-deductible to the fullest extent of the law.

For more information about the Philadelphia Jewish Voice visit GuideStar.

The official registrations and financial information of the Philadelphia Jewish Voice may be obtained from the Pennsylvania Department of State by calling toll-free, within Pennsylvania, 1-800-732-0999. Registration does not imply endorsement.

Dividing Electoral Votes by District Would Make Bad System Worse

In September 2011, Pennsylvania State Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi (R) proposed that Pennsylvania’s electoral votes be allocated by congressional district, as opposed to the current winner-take-all basis (wherein all of Pennsylvania’s electoral votes are awarded to the presidential candidate who receives the most popular votes statewide in Pennsylvania). Under the district plan, the voters would elect one presidential elector for each of a state’s 18 congressional districts and 2 presidential electors on an at-large statewide basis.

The district approach would magnify the shortcomings of the current statewide winner-take-all system.  

The best solution is the National Popular Vote bill. The National Popular Vote bill would guarantee the Presidency to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in the entire United States.

More after the jump.
The district approach for awarding electoral votes would magnify the shortcomings of the current statewide winner-take-all system.

  • ACCURACY: The district approach would less accurately reflect the national popular vote than the current system and would increase the chance of electing a President who did not win the national popular vote.
  • COMPETITIVENESS: The district approach would reduce the already small percentage of the people of the country who are relevant in presidential elections. Seven-eighths of the people of the country live in non-competitive “spectator” congressional districts, compared to two-thirds who live in non-competitive “spectator” states. Voters in only a few of Pennsylvania’s 18 congressional districts would matter in presidential elections under the district approach.
  • EQUALITY: The district approach would not make every vote equal.

As to accuracy, when Bush lost the national popular vote in 2000, he nonetheless won 55% of the country’s 435 congressional districts. In 2004, Bush’s won 50.7% of the popular vote, but 59% of the districts. If the district approach were implemented selectively in a large state (say, in Pennsylvania, but not Texas), the overall system would be less reflective of the national popular vote than the current system and would increase the likelihood of electing a President who did not win the national popular vote.

As to competitiveness, candidates have no reason to campaign in areas where they are comfortably ahead or hopelessly behind. Nationally, there are only about 55 congressional districts that are competitive in presidential elections.

Under the district approach, every vote would not be equal. Congressional districts are created with equal population, but not an equal number of voters. There were, for example, three times more votes cast for President in Congressman Mike Thompson’s district in northern California in 2006 than in Jim Costa’s district in the Central Valley or in Loretta Sanchez’s district in Orange County.

As John Samples of the Cato Institute recently pointed out in a panel discussion at the National Conference of State Legislatures, the district approach would extend the effects of gerrymandering of congressional districts to the highest office in the land.

Allocation of electoral votes by congressional district was used by Massachusetts in the nation’s first presidential election in 1789. North Carolina and Virginia did something similar in that they allocated electoral votes by special presidential electors districts in 1789. Over the years, various states have used the district approach. In 1969, Maine adopted this method of allocating electoral votes. Nebraska did so in 1992. In 2008, Barack Obama won one of Nebraska’s electoral votes by carrying the 2nd congressional district (while John McCain won the 1st and 3rd districts and statewide).

Currently, 48 of the 50 states award electoral votes on a “winner-take-all” basis.

The congressional district approach for awarding electoral votes is clearly constitutional. In the 1892 case of McPherson v. Blacker (1892), the U.S. Supreme Court upheld Michigan’s switch from the winner-take-all system to a system in which one electoral vote was awarded to the candidate who received the most votes in each congressional district (and in which the state’s remaining two electoral votes were awarded to the candidate who received the most votes in each of two special districts, each containing half of the state).

The manner of conducting presidential elections is covered in Article II, Section 1, Clause 2 of the U.S. Constitution saying “Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors.” The constitutional wording “as the Legislature thereof may direct” contains no restrictions. It does not encourage, discourage, require, or prohibit the use of any particular method for awarding the state’s electoral votes.

For example, the now-prevailing winner-take-all rule was used by only three states when the Founding Fathers went back to their states to organize the nation’s first presidential election in 1789. It did not become prominent until the pre-Civil-War era – long after the Constitution was written and ratified and long after the Founding Fathers were dead. Maine enacted its congressional-district system in 1969, and Nebraska did so in 1992.

The U.S. Supreme Court has characterized the authority of the states over the manner of awarding their electoral votes as “plenary” and “exclusive.” States may allocate their electoral votes in any manner (provided, of course, that it does not violate some other section of the Constitution). The states have used a variety of methods in the past. Massachusetts has changed methods 11 times, and many other states have changed their methods three or four times. The district system was used in Michigan for the 1892 presidential election, but repealed in time for the 1896 election. This issue is discussed in detail in section 8.3 of the book Every Vote Equal: A State-Based Plan for Election the President by National Popular Vote.

At any given time, there are bills in approximately 40% of the state legislatures to allocate the state’s electoral vote by congressional district.

Such bills occasionally pass one house of a state legislature. For example, such a bill was passed by the Democratic-controlled North Carolina Senate in 2007 (in a state that usually voted Republican in presidential elections) and was passed a year few ago by the Republican-controlled New York Senate (in a state that usually voted Democratic in presidential elections).

In California in 2007, an initiative petition was circulated to divide the state’s 55 electoral votes by congressional district; however, the petition failed to get enough signatures to qualify for the June 2008 ballot.

For more details, see sections 3.3 and 4.2 of the book Every Vote Equal: A State-Based Plan for Election the President by National Popular Vote.