A Republican state senator has introduced legislation in Virginia that would overhaul the state’s winner-take-all system in presidential elections and split up the state’s electoral votes by congressional districts.
Here’s how Sen. Charles W. Carrico Sr.’s legislation would work: Currently the candidate who wins the most votes in Virginia takes all of the state’s 13 electoral votes. This year, Obama won 51 percent of the votes in Virginia in 2012, giving him 13 electoral votes.
Under this proposed legislation, each candidate would get one electoral vote for each of the state’s 11 congressional districts he wins. The state’s two at-large votes would go to the candidate that wins the majority of the district. Had this legislation been in place on Nov. 6, Mitt Romney would have won nine electoral votes to President Obama’s four.
Virginia had been a reliably red state until 2008 when Obama beat McCain, making it the first time a Democratic presidential candidate had won in the Commonwealth since 1964.
The shift blue is largely due to demographic changes; the Hispanic and black populations are rapidly growing and these people are moving into the more densely populated Northern Virginia and Richmond suburbs. Obama may have only won four districts, but it was enough to give him the majority of the state’s votes.
Sen. Carrico argues that the current system suppresses people’s votes in rural areas. In his district in southwest Virginia, Mitt Romney won 63 percent of the vote.
“People in my district — they feel discouraged by coming out because their votes don’t mean anything if they’re outvoted in metropolitan districts,” Mr. Carrico said. “It can go either way — it doesn’t necessarily mean that one political party is going to be favored over another. When they come out to vote, they know their vote counts instead of a winner-take-all. I’d love to see other states to do this because I don’t feel the Electoral College right now is a fair system.”
Many prominent left-leaning bloggers weighed in on the legislation Monday, and it’s clear they think this is just another form of voter suppression, saying that Carrico’s legislation would essentially just “gerrymander” the state’s electoral college votes.
Carrico’s proposal is part of a troubling national trend by Republican legislators in GOP-controlled states won by President Obama in the 2008 and 2012 elections. The Pennsylvania Senate Majority Leader and Ohio Secretary of State have suggested similar schemes in those states. While constitutional, the scheme would make it far more likely that the popular choice for president would not be elected to that office. No such efforts have emerged in GOP-controlled states won by the Republican nominees.
Indeed, if this plan to rig the Electoral College had been law in several key Republican-controlled states that President Obama won last month, America would now be looking at a very different future. Had the Carrico plan been instituted for the 2012 elections in Florida, Michigan, Ohio, Virginia, and Wisconsin, it is quite likely Mitt Romney would be the president-elect despite President Obama’s 51-47 majority.
And Slate’s Dave Weigel wrote:
This is so damn stupid that you've got to be charitable and assume Carrico is just making up a rationale under pressure. Voters in Virginia, a swing state in both 2008 and 2012, were worried that "their votes don't mean anything"? No. Their votes were, potentially, more pivotal than the votes of New Yorkers or Californians or Texans. They might get "outvoted in metropolitan districts"? Sorry, but what about the people who live in the metropolitan districts who'd suddenly realize that they could never push their candidate to a statewide win?
Currently every state but Maine and Nebraska have a winner take all electoral college system. In these states, a candidate wins an electoral vote for each congressional district he wins, and the two at large votes go to the candidate that won the popular vote in the state. All the electoral votes in these states typically go to one candidate.
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