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Electoral bill appears headed to defeat

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Senate panel debates bill to allocate Virginia's electoral votes by congressional district.

By Landmark News Service

RICHMOND — A bill that would allocate Virginia’s presidential electoral votes by congressional district rather than statewide popular vote appears headed towards a bipartisan rejection.
Though it would have meant a GOP victory for Virginia in the past election, even a few Republicans seem hesitant to support the changes to the system of awarding the commonwealth’s Electoral College votes proposed by Sen. Bill Carrico (R-Grayson County).
If Carrico’s legislation had been in effect for the 2012 election, Republican Mitt Romney would have won nine of Virginia’s 13 electoral votes, and President Barack Obama would have won four.
The bill cleared a subcommittee Monday morning and will be considered by the full Senate Privileges and Elections Committee next week.
Under Senate Bill 723, the candidate with the most votes in a congressional district would receive one electoral vote. The candidate who wins a majority of the congressional districts also would receive the state’s two at-large electoral votes. If no candidate wins a majority of the congressional districts, the two at-large electoral votes would go to the winner of the statewide popular vote.
“I’ve had several conversations with constituents, regardless of party affiliations, that feel like the disadvantages to rural areas are that their voices are not heard in elections,” Carrico said Monday in a meeting of a Senate Privileges and Election subcommittee.
Only Maine and Nebraska allocate presidential electoral votes by congressional district. In those states, the winner in each congressional district receives one electoral vote, and the winner of the statewide popular vote wins the state’s at-large votes.
The Senate subcommittee was split along party lines over Carrico’s bill, with three Republicans supporting it and three Democrats opposing it. The subcommittee chairwoman, Sen. Jill Vogel (R-Fauquier County), abstained from the vote.
Subcommittee member Sen. John Edwards (D-Roanoke), was one of Democrats who opposed Carrico’s bill, argued that it would “destroy the concept of one person, one vote statewide.”
Carrico is not the first Virginia legislator to make such a proposal. Last year, Del. Vivian Watts (D-Fairfax County) sponsored a bill that would allocate electoral votes as Maine and Nebraska do. That bill didn’t make it past a House of Delegates subcommittee.
Carrico’s bill seems destined to fail, as well, after even his fellow Republican senators denounced the proposal.
Sen. Ralph Smith (R-Bedford), who represents a portion of Carroll, is on record as opposing Carrico’s proposal, according to The Roanoke Times’ political blog, the Blue Ridge Caucus. Smith called it “a bad idea.”
This is significant because Smith sits on the Senate Privileges and Elections Committee, which will hear the proposal this week.
“What if all states got to skewing it to their advantage?” Smith said to The Roanoke Times.
Another Republican, Jill Vogel (R-Fauquier County), also told reporters that she has no plans to support Carrico’s bill.
Input from Republicans in opposition led The Washington Post to report that “Virginia bill on electoral college change appears headed for defeat.”
In the November 2012 election, Romney won the 1st, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 9th and 10th congressional districts. Under Carrico’s bill, Romney would have won those seven electoral votes and the state’s two at-large votes. Obama carried the 2nd, 3rd, 8th and 11th districts.