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After a few densely populated localities turned the whole state blue in the 2012 presidential election, a state senator has submitted a proposal to the General Assembly to revamp the way Virginia’s electoral college votes are awarded.
Many of the rural areas of the state turned red as most voters there, including those in Southwest Virginia and the Twin County area, supported Republican Mitt Romney in his bid to become the next president of the United States.
But the voters in the more urban areas of the state eventually nudged Virginia into granting its electoral college electors to the re-election of President Barack Obama.
Senate Bill 723, submitted by state Sen. Bill Carrico (R-Fries), would change the winner-take-all way of awarding Virginia’s electoral college votes.
Carrico, representing Senate District 40 that includes Grayson and Galax, filed the proposal Dec. 3 in preparation for the short 2013 General Assembly session.
SB 723 “provides that the Commonwealth’s electoral votes shall be allocated by congressional district,” according to the Virginia Legislative Information System.
“Receipt by a slate of presidential electors of the highest number of votes in a congressional district constitutes the election of the congressional district elector of that slate,” the bill says. “Receipt by a slate of electors of the highest number of votes in a majority of congressional districts constitutes the election of the two at-large electors of that slate.”
The bill has been referred to the Committee on Privileges and Elections for consideration in the new year.
The Gazette asked officials at the University of Virginia Center for Politics to discuss this idea and to predict whether such a change might win approval from the state legislators.
“The bill essentially aims to make Virginia more-or-less like Maine and Nebraska, the only two states that apportion their electoral votes by congressional district,” answered the Center for Politics’ Geoffrey Skelley. “However, a key difference is that in those states the overall statewide winner gets the two at-large electoral votes, whereas it appears Carrico's bill would give the party that won the most congressional districts the two at-large electoral votes.”
If such a system had been in place for the 2012 election, Obama would have won four electoral votes, while Romney would have won seven for taking the 1st, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 9th and 10th districts, plus the two at-large votes, Skelley said. “So, it’s obvious why Carrico, a Republican, would prefer this system.”
But Skelley described the odds of the proposal actually becoming law as “slim,” even though Republicans control the General Assembly.
“The winner-take-all method that most states use in the Electoral College has a long history and it's tough to alter something that is so institutionally entrenched,” he explained. “Others states, most recently Pennsylvania, have had GOP legislators propose a similar change with GOP control, but nothing came of those proposals.”
It’s difficult to convince legislators to change how a state apportions its electoral votes, Skelley said.
“Such a change might provoke a backlash from the electorate for something that is obviously partisan in its objective,” he added. “The devil you know is better than the devil you don't, so I doubt that this bill will get out of committee.
“And if it did, I still doubt this bill could get majorities in both chambers of the General Assembly.”
Carrico was in a transportation meeting Wednesday and did not immediately return a message seeking comment.