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."


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john c cagzman January 27, 2013 at 02:40 PM
You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.
Bob Albrecht January 27, 2013 at 02:40 PM
I just moved from Virginia. I thought the electoral system was really bad until I got to Pennsylvania. Here there are crazy barriers to voting that certainly disenfranchise many voters. I was not able to vote in the last election because of that. Having moved from Oregon Virginia and Pennsylvania seem anti-democracy, and all or most of it is racist.
Guy Strauss January 27, 2013 at 02:42 PM
This is an attempt by the soon to be minority white males to maintain power. What's next? Apartheid?
Daniel Hewitt January 27, 2013 at 02:43 PM
As pure a political issue as we have ever seen. We all know that if it benefits the Democrat they sure wouldn’t even put this on the table... I believe that people in metropolitan areas tend to think and vote alike. I don't think rural area votes should be drowned by the cities and their votes should count on a national stage. On the other hand this would weaken the state’s ability to remain a key state in the election and basically just be looked past by both parties... I think republicans need to reevaluate their own party platform and try and get more working class independents back in the party. Redistricting didn't work for this last election.. It helped offset a potential landslide but it really is counterproductive. The American people see through this stuff and it's going to flare some tempers. I think this aimless clinging to a failing platform is really showing the underbelly of the elitism and hyper ideology in the Republican Party. This is just an example of the parties’ inability to adjust and cling to ideals that succeed in certain environments and fail in others.
hiendurance January 27, 2013 at 02:44 PM
Only those who paytaxes vote? OK, Mitt romney and corporations need to prove they pay. Then their vote should be be commensurate with the percentage of income in taxes they pay. Romneys vote worth 11%, mine 28%.
john c cagzman January 27, 2013 at 02:45 PM
No matter how much some Republican Governors, State Attorney Generals, Secretary of State officials refuse to extend early voting hours for too many states, reducing Voting-machines to 50% just to dis encourage the voters (smart American voters) no matter ho much you change Electoral College just to steal an election-Americans remember what Bush/Cheney/Rove did & said no more Republicans-THOSE WHO FORGET THE PAST ARE "DOOMED" TO REPEAT IT.
Suzanne Sheehan January 27, 2013 at 02:46 PM
I agree with Karen, we need to get rid of the Electoral College. That needed to be tossed out decades back! And the voting method needs to be the same, state to state, county to county. It is ridiculous. They have a way to poll the country on every issue under the sun, but they can't figure out how to create a standard voting system? Please!
hiendurance January 27, 2013 at 02:46 PM
Only those who paytaxes vote? OK, Mitt romney and corporations need to prove they pay. Then their vote should be be commensurate with the percentage of income in taxes they pay. Romneys vote worth 11%, mine 28%.
hiendurance January 27, 2013 at 02:48 PM
Maybe republican laws regarding vaginal probe ultrasounds should only be enforced on Republican districts?
john c cagzman January 27, 2013 at 02:50 PM
Lets talk about "Jim Crow" - sorry what is Gerrymandering:gerrymandering is a practice that attempts to establish a political advantage for a particular party or group by manipulating district boundaries to create partisan advantaged districts.
john c cagzman January 27, 2013 at 02:51 PM
gerrymandering is a practice that attempts to establish a political advantage for a particular party or group by manipulating district boundaries to create partisan advantaged districts. In addition to its use achieving desired electoral results for a particular party, gerrymandering may be used to help or hinder a particular demographic, such as a political, ethnic, racial, linguistic, religious, or class group, such as in U.S. federal voting district boundaries that produce a majority of constituents representative of African-American or other racial minorities, known as "majority-minority districts".
John Brown January 27, 2013 at 02:51 PM
Electoral College was instituted to protect "we the people" from emotional extremes, not because of slow communications. It's obvious, from the anove, emotion still endangers our reasoning. The founders feared "mob rule," a type of democracy. This country is not and was not intended to be a democracy. We are a republic, let's keep it that way. Electoral College blunts the affects of mob rule. Remember, we pledge "allegiance ... to the republic for which it stands." Jb
Michael Petersen January 27, 2013 at 02:52 PM
If they wanted to be more fairer about the vote it would be according to percentage of population. In other words, 40percent of the population voted one way, then they get 40 percent of that states electoral vote. Of course we know this has nothing to do about being fair, this is a way the gerrymandered states can assure a republican vote, nothing more.
Dan McCreedy January 27, 2013 at 02:59 PM
It's not going to work. It's the final death gasps of a dying, manipulative party, that is willing to jeopardize our very freedoms, and democracy to maintain their control. Maintenance of their control is the primary concern of many republicans, and it takes priority over morals, ethics, freedom, and democracy. This is how dictatorships are born. It is both sick and dangerous.
Jeff Soots January 27, 2013 at 03:10 PM
John Brown is correct, we are a Republic - not a full democracy. Our nation was founded as a democratic republic using Representative government. Our representatives listen to our ideas and are to act on what they reason to be best for the population as whole.
john c cagzman January 27, 2013 at 03:10 PM
Talk about constitutional originalism! I find it amusing that the same Republican Party who always called themselves (The Saviors of the Constitution party, always strong advocate & believe in this plat form, expect that the USA Constitution to be Protect and defend our Constitutional rights) are now opposed to Twelfth Amendment. America is a nation of CONSTITUTION
Makes Sense January 27, 2013 at 03:20 PM
Over 4,000,000 Californians voted for Romney in the last election, resulting in 0 electoral votes. Just a few more than that voted for Romney in Texas, resulting in 38 electoral votes. Doesn't seem like a very good system to me. I like the congressional district approach. A few other states already do it.
Makes Sense January 27, 2013 at 03:29 PM
The 12th amendment nor the original constitution had anything to do with how electoral voters were nominated in each state, only how they cast their ballot once they got there. It's not 2,000 pages, read it before you start quoting it!
Makes Sense January 27, 2013 at 03:32 PM
I doubt you paid 28% for one, please verify that. And I would guess the Romney probably paid about 100 times more taxes that you.
Davadoff January 27, 2013 at 03:32 PM
@hiendurance: Perhaps Democratic laws regarding rectal probe ultrasounds should be enforced on Democratic districts.
Lelio Risen January 27, 2013 at 03:38 PM
If we are going to start doing this, it better happen in EVERY state, and it needs to be done based on the popular vote of that state, not due to the gerrymandering of districts. For Romney to get the majority of electors, when Obama won the majority of the state's votes, would be obscene. Here's an idea GOP. Actually run on a platform that appeals to a majority of constituents. Maybe then you can win without resorting to rigging elections.
Makes Sense January 27, 2013 at 03:53 PM
How about this for an idea. The media reports fairly on both candidates instead of being totally in the can for the liberals. I know, just dreaming.
Makes Sense January 27, 2013 at 03:59 PM
Ethics, Morals, what are you taking about? You are for the party that promotes the killing of 1 million unborn children every year. How about stealing? Taking personal property from an individual against their will and giving it to others. How about adultery, we celebrate the guy with 11 children with 10 mothers!
Chris January 27, 2013 at 05:11 PM
I like Michael's idea. Divvy up the electoral votes by population. Or, go by congressional district but give the extra two votes to the winner of the popular vote. The way this proposal is written right now does sound pretty unbalanced, and that's coming from a Republican. But the current system needs revision as well. It's not fair that cities dictate policy to rural America. As a former resident of upstate New York, I can certainly say that this happens. It's practicality like this which justifies the electoral college. It's far from out of date; I think it's as or more relevant now than ever before with the exploding population of cities. P.S.: the United States is a democratic republic, not a democracy. Majority does not and should not always rule.
Gregory Thomas January 27, 2013 at 05:54 PM
Time for a true election who wins the most people votes should be president end the district bs let the people rule finally
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.


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