A state Senate committee this afternoon killed legislation that would change the way Virginia apportions its presidential electoral votes, even after the bill’s Republican sponsor proposed changes in an effort to ease objections to the measure.
The original bill (Senate Bill 723) sponsored by Del. Bill Carrico, R-Grayson County, would have apportioned the state’s electoral votes by congressional district rather than by popular vote. Aware that lawmakers in both parties had voiced concerns about the bill, Carrico today proposed that electoral votes be apportioned according the percentage of the popular vote each candidate receives.
But that idea didn’t fly with the Senate Privileges and Elections Committee, which voted 11-4 to kill the bill. Four Republicans joined the committee’s seven Democrats in voting against the measure.
Carrico argued that Virginia’s winner-take-all system of apportioning electoral votes weakens the influence of rural voters in presidential elections. Under his original bill, the candidate with the most votes in a congressional district would receive one electoral vote, and the candidate who wins a majority of the congressional districts would receive the state’s two at-large electoral votes.
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, even though Obama won 51 percent of the state’s popular vote. Maine and Nebraska are the only states that allocate electoral votes by congressional district.
Carrico today proposed an alternative that would allocate 11 electoral votes based on the percentage of the popular vote candidates receive, and award the two at-large electoral votes to the top vote-getter. Under that system, Obama would have won eight of Virginia’s electoral votes last year.
“I’ve tried to make it as fair as I could and still represent my district,” Carrico said.
Sen. Ralph Smith, R-Bedford County, opposed the legislation and said, “I don’t think I’ve ever had more people contact me about any issue.”
Smith said Carrico’s proposal was “a fairer way” to apportion electoral votes. But, he added, “To be fair, it must be done nationwide and that makes it a federal issue.”
Republicans Jeff McWaters of Virginia Beach, Jill Vogel of Fauquier County, and Mark Obenshain of Harrisonburg, the committee’s chairman, also voted to kill the bill.
Sen. John Edwards, D-Roanoke, who also voted against the bill, said Virginia would not have been one of a handful of key battleground states last year without a winner-take-all system.
“If we were going to do something like this, we should have a lot of public hearings because this is a radical change,” Edwards said.
– Michael Sluss