We talked last week about Republican officials in Pennsylvania who want to change the way the state allocates electoral votes in presidential elections – instead of a winner-take-all system, used by nearly every state, GOP officials in the Keystone State would apportion electoral votes by congressional district.
It’s a horrible idea, crafted by partisans who want to rig elections in Republicans’ favor, and apparently, it’s spreading. Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted (R) wants this on the table in the Buckeye State, and it’s been raised in Virginia, too.
Virginia State Senator Charles “Bill” Carrico Sr. (R) has become the latest swing state-Republican to propose a scheme to rig presidential elections for future Republican candidates. Blue Virginia reports his proposed SB 723 would award the state’s electors based on which candidate gets the majority of votes in each gerrymandered Congressional district – rather than based on who gets the most votes statewide. […]
With a Republican-controlled redistricting passed earlier this year, Virginia Democrats were heavily packed into three districts. Under these maps, Obama won Virginia by almost a 4 point margin, yet he carried just four Virginia Congressional Districts. Were Carrico’s scheme in place, Mitt Romney would have received seven of Virginia’s 11 electoral votes despite receiving just 47.28% of the vote statewide.
Others, including John Putnam and Jonathan Bernstein, have explained in detail why the approach is so deeply flawed, but there’s another angle to this that stands out for me: Republicans must be really worried about Virginia’s partisan future.
Let’s put it this way: at least in Pennsylvania the GOP scheme is understandable. It’s historically been a competitive swing state, but in six of the last six elections, the Democratic presidential candidate has won, usually pretty easily. With this in mind, it stands to reason that Keystone State Republicans would conclude, “Our candidate probably isn’t going to win statewide anytime soon, but if we rig electoral-vote allocation, we can still help our guy win the election.”
But Virginia is a very different political environment. In the last 60 years, only two Democratic presidential candidates have won the commonwealth: LBJ in his 1964 landslide and Barack Obama. That’s it. Even Bill Clinton lost the state twice, and he was very competitive throughout the South in both of his races.
If you’re a Virginia Republican official who believes the state will soon revert to form and start voting GOP again, changing the way Virginia distributes electoral votes doesn’t make sense – it creates a huge risk of helping the other side. Indeed, had this idea been in place in the commonwealth in recent elections, Virginia would have awarded plenty of electoral votes to Clinton, John Kerry, and Al Gore, instead of none.
The only reason Virginia Republicans would even consider an idea like this is if they assume the state is slowly slipping away from them, and it won’t revert to form. By putting this idea on the table, folks like state Sen. Carrico are suggesting they expect Democrats to be in a position to win the state for the indefinite future.