Updated: GOP Sen. Smith opposes bill to allocate presidential electoral votes by congressional district
If a bill to reapportion Virginia’s presidential electoral votes by congressional district is a Republican plot, someone forgot to tell state Sen. Ralph Smith, R-Bedford County.
Smith said this morning that he opposes the legislation, calling it “a bad idea.” Smith sits on the Senate Privileges and Elections Committee, which will hear the bill next week. Without Smith’s support, it’s unlikely the bill could get to the Senate floor. The Privileges and Elections Committee has eight Republicans and seven Democrats.
“What if all states got to skewing it to their advantage?” Smith said in an interview this morning.
Senate Bill 723 would allocate presidential electoral votes by congressional district rather than statewide popular vote. State Sen. Bill Carrico, R-Grayson County, introduced the measure.
If the system 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. Obama win the statewide popular vote for the second consecutive election, giving him Virginia’s 13 electoral votes. Obama in 2008 became the first Democrat in 44 years to win Virginia.
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.
Carrico has argued that the current winner-take-all system of allocating electoral votes dilutes rural voting strength. The bill was heard by a Senate subcommittee earlier this week. Three Republicans, including Carrico, supported it. Three Democrats opposed it. Subcommittee chairwoman Jill Vogel, R-Fauquier County, abstained.
General Assembly Democrats have introduced similar proposals in previous legislative session. But this year, some Democrats have accused Republicans of trying to alter the electoral vote process after Obama twice won the state’s popular vote.
Smith said allocating electoral votes by congressional district is “a bad idea for the long term.”
“It’s something to consider if every state does it that way,” he said.
Update: Vogel said this morning that she, too, will vote against the bill when it reaches the full committee next week.
Vogel, a former Republican National Committee election lawyer, raised concerns that the change would be seen as a knee-jerk reaction to the recent presidential elections.
“You just have to be be a little more cautious when you consider things like this,” she said.
Gov. Bob McDonnell also opposes the legislation, a spokesman said.
“The governor does not support this legislation,” McDonnell spokesman Tucker Martin said. “He believes Virginia’s existing system works just fine as it is. He does not believe there is any need for a change.”
– Michael Sluss