A Southwest Virginia legislator is proposing that Virginia scrap its winner-take-all method of allocating presidential electoral votes, and instead apportion them by congressional district.
If state Sen. Bill 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.
Carrico, R-Grayson County, has introduced the bill (Senate Bill 723) for the 2013 General Assembly session, which begins Jan. 9. The bill has been referred to the Senate Privileges and Elections Committee.
Two states, Maine and Nebraska, allocate electoral votes by congressional district. In every other state, the candidate who wins the popular vote gets all of that state’s electoral votes.
Carrico said his proposal is not driven by partisan concerns. Instead, he said, he believes the winner-take-all system of allocating electoral votes dilutes rural voting strength.
“If it’s going to continue winner-take-all — it doesn’t matter which side is running — it’s going to all come down to how many people vote in the metropolitan areas and it doesn’t matter what the rural voters do,” Carrico said.
Obama won 51 percent of the statewide vote and Virginia’s 13 electoral votes with strong support in the state’s urban crescent. He won more than 60 percent of the vote in two Northern Virginia congressional districts, 79 percent of the vote in the 3rd Congressional District that extends from Hampton Roads to Richmond, and half the vote in the 2nd Congressional District.
Romney won by large margins in Western Virginia, but couldn’t overcome Obama’s strong performance in the urban crescent.
“I think if you want to continue to get people to be involved and turn out to vote for their candidate in the more rural areas, you’re going to have to even the playing field in order to have involvement,” Carrico said.
Under Carrico’s bill, 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.
Carrico is not the first Virginia legislator to make such a proposal. Earlier this year, Del. Vivian Watts, D-Fairfax County, sponsored a bill that would allocate electoral votes as Maine and Nebraska do. 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. Watts’ bill didn’t make it past a House of Delegates subcommittee.
In the November 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.
– Michael Sluss