Electoral College Change Could Weaken Northern Virginia's Influence

Gov. McDonnell is against effort, which will head to state senate committee this week.

A Republican-led effort to end the Old Dominion's traditional winner-take-all approach to picking a president has drawn national attention and could weaken the influence of voters in urban areas like Northern Virginia.

The bill, authored by state Sen. Charles Carrico, a Galax Republican, would divvy up electoral collage votes based on who wins each of this state's 11 congressional districts.

Carrico has said that the current system casts aside the wishes of rural voters and that his bill is an attempt to even the playing field, according to the Roanoke Times. More broadly, proponents in the GOP say the new system would better reflect the popular vote.

The bill heads to the full Senate Privileges and Elections Committee this week. Gov. Bob McDonnell, a Republican, came out against the measure Friday afternoon.

"We've had a winner-take-all system that's really the essence of democracy — the majority wins," said state Sen. Chap Petersen, a Fairfax Democrat who voted against the measure while it was in subcommittee.

Petersen said while the electoral college system has at times led to "idiosyncratic results," it has worked in most instances for more than 200 years.

Under the current system, Virginia has 13 electoral college votes and all of them go to the presidential candidate who wins the majority of the vote. The proposed plan would set aside two electoral votes for the overall winner, and the rest would be awarded by congressional district.

Maine and Nebraska are currently the only two states to award electoral college votes by congressional district. But efforts are under way in Virginia and three other states where Republicans control the legislatures to follow suit.

Petersen called the measure "anti-Democratic."

"If congressional districts were drawn by a non-partisan commission and evenly — or even roughly — balanced between parties or the population, I'd have much less heartburn about this. Maybe I'd even support it," he said.

But unlike state lines, which often were drawn based on natural geographic boundaries, congressional districts are gerrymandered to give one party an edge, he said.

In Virginia, for instance, Republicans control — and in November, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney carried — seven congressional districts. Democrats hold four.

Slate's Dave Weigel breaks it down like this: Had the proposed changes been in effect in 2012, Romney would have walked away with nine electoral votes; President Barack Obama, four. And that's despite the president winning the popular vote in Virginia by about 150,000 votes.

"You can already see the public backlash building. It came in the wake of the redistricting fiasco Monday," Petersen told Patch. He said he's talked to Republicans privately who say the proposal is not a good idea.

"This thing is starting to catch what we call down here a little bit of a fever," he said.

The move has Virginia once again in the crosshairs of late-night comedy, while others are just downright mad. David Graham wrote in The Atlantic, "It's not like the GOP's standing with minority and urban voters can get much worse."

Under certain analyses, had key swing states — like Virginia — already done away with the winner-take-all system, only Florida would have stood in the way of Romney and the White House in November.

"Look, voter persuasion is hard," wrote Joy-Ann Reid in a Miami Herald opinion piece. "…Better to just dilute the opposition and give Republicans their man in the White House, will of the voters be damned."

Further, Reid states:

"Read more directly, Republicans can reduce the power of large urban centers — with their sizable black and brown populations — by literally giving those undesirable voters less than a full vote apiece. Talk about constitutional originalism! It seems the three-fifths compromise survives."


Keep up with state and national news that affects Northern Virginia by subscribing to Reston Patch's free daily newsletter.


Karen E. Stevens January 27, 2013 at 06:12 PM
DEMOCRACY:1. Government by the people; a form of govt. in which the supreme power is vested IN the people and exercised directly by them or by their agents under a FREE electoral system. FEDERAL:1.Pertaining to or of the nature of a union of states of states under a central government district FROM the individual governments of the separate states. REPRESENTATIVE: 7. Of, characterized by, or FOUNDED ON representation OF the people in government: a representative democracy . SOCIALISM: 1. a theory or system of social organization in which the means of production and distribution of goods are owned and controlled collectively OR by the GOVERNMENT. 2. In Marxist theory, the stage FOLLOWING capitalism in the TRANSITION of a society to COMMUNISM, characterized by the imperfect implementation of COLLECTIVIST principles. (All definitions from Random House Webster's College Dictionary 1992) This is presented to all for reflection: What the vision WAS for America/ where it has BEEN/ where it is GOING. Is anyone out there afraid yet?
Java Master January 27, 2013 at 06:44 PM
Just a little conservative paranoia, right Karen? It didn'tt work for conservatives in the last two presidential elections, why do you keep beating that dead horse?
Karen E. Stevens January 27, 2013 at 07:37 PM
I am non-partisan and a realist. My comments stem from a long life of watching men, their greed, their thirst for power at any cost, and observing the political "scene" devolving from civil discourse into the pigsties and mud smearing realm. I am deeply saddened by the course our nation has taken. BOTH parties hold equal blame for the degradation of the the strength of this country in the international realm. They BOTH also are responsible for our current status financially, fiscally, and morally. There is no honor among thieves, and politicians are the biggest and most jovial of that class. The horse of shame and dishonor is alive and, unfortunately, quite well. Which leaves us, THE PEOPLE, standing alone, covered in their mud, without hope. And, to return to the original post, without a voice.
The BSD Guy January 27, 2013 at 08:47 PM
This Republican action is just more proof of the following: 1. They're totally oblivious to how transparent their two-bit schemes are. 2. They fail to recognize the backlash this creates 3. They fail to see how this can harm them in the long term. They were pulling voter-schemes during the last elections, and all they succeeded in doing was p*ssing so many voters off that they came out in droves. If you've seen some of the interviews, some people that otherwise might not have voted came out and voted in spite. They fail to recognize that a day could come when the tables are turned and this could work against them. The Republican party is a lost party, and it's time it be replaced. These guys are simply too stupid and too out of touch with reality to be in charge of anything. Unfortunately, it appears to me that lack of foresight and lack of intelligence are now REQUIREMENTS if you wish to be a Republican. Republicans, for all they claim to be all about "fiscal responsibility" are YET AGAIN wasting our time and money. What will happen to this bill? 1. If it passes, it will be challenged in court. 2. The courts will eventually see it as essentially, by the numbers, as unjust, since essentially someone in a rural area will effectively "count more" than one in a more populated area. 3. The ruling will be overturned. All of this will take money, time, and effort. It will not succeed. It will just cost us MORE MONEY. WASTE, WASTE, WASTE. What morons!
Amy January 28, 2013 at 12:26 AM
Funny how when the "winner-take-all" approach benefited Republicans, they were dead set against any kind of proportional allotment of delegates. Now that Northern Virginia voters are finally exercising their clout (and Hampton Roads and other urban centers are leaning more Democratic), they're suddenly all for it. I wouldn't have qualms about it if the political districts themselves weren't drawn to protect incumbents or particular parties.


More »
Got a question? Something on your mind? Talk to your community, directly.
Note Article
Just a short thought to get the word out quickly about anything in your neighborhood.
Share something with your neighbors.What's on your mind?What's on your mind?Make an announcement, speak your mind, or sell somethingPost something
See more »