Virginia Electoral College Reform Bill Fails

Virginia has decisively killed a bill that would have awarded the Commonwealth's electoral votes to the winner of gerrymandered congressional districts rather than the statewide winner.

Think Progress passes along word that Virginia has decisively killed a bill that would have awarded the Commonwealth’s electoral votes to the winner of gerrymandered congressional districts rather than the statewide winner.

ProgressVirginia reported Tuesday afternoon that the Virginia Senate’s Privileges and Elections Committee killed Sen. Charles “Bill” Carrico Sr.’ selectoral college-rigging bill, despite an offer by Carrico to amend the bill to award electors in proportion to the state’s popular vote. The vote was 11-4 against the bill, although it will not be official until the close of the committee meeting.

The bill, as written, would have awarded 11 of Virginia’s 13 electoral votes to the winner of each of the state’s 11 heavily gerrymandered Congressional Districts. The remaining two electors would have been awarded to whoever won the majority of Congressional Districts. Under this scheme, Mitt Romney would have received 9 Virginia electors to Obama’s 4, even though Barack Obama won the state by four points.

All seven committee Democrats voted to “pass by indefinitely” (kill the bill) as did Republican Senators Mark Obenshain, Ralph SmithJill Holtzman Vogel, and Jeff McWaters. Four Republicans (Sens. Stephen Martin, Bryce Reeves, Tom Garrett, and the patron Bill Carrico) supported the scheme.

This is the right outcome. While I’m not opposed in principle to awarding Electors on the basis of congressional districts if the alternative is the winner-take-all model, it’s unconscionable in light of heavily gerrymandered districts. Carrico’s version was especially outrageous, since it added insult to injury by awarding the two senatorial electors to the winner of the most districts rather than to the statewide winner.

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James Joyner
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James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Tsar Nicholas says:

    What’s funny about this, however, is that if a liberal Democrat in a Rorschach district in Texas proposed the exact same thing then the liberal media-academe cabal would be all in favor it. Without even grasping the irony. Allocated electors for me, but not for thee.

    In any event, killing this bill does make sense. The whole problem with electoral votes by district is that it would take gerrymandering to Defcon 1. And Census-based redistricting would go from absurd to abject farce. The left would want separate districts for each city block and they’d file so many lawsuits, appeals and writs concerning each district map it would boggle the mind.

    Best to leave things as is. And if Republicans want better election results they should nominate better candidates and run better campaigns. And get a new voter base. One that actually votes.

  2. legion says:

    Things like this are why a free press is absolutely vital to a free society. If this hadn’t been reported on, it would have gone through in the dead of night and even in Virginia nobody would have realized the evil until next election day.

  3. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Tsar Nicholas:

    the liberal media-academe cabal

    The stupid…. It hurts.

  4. gVOR08 says:

    @legion: And they’ll wait ’til the heat is off and do it again.

  5. scott says:

    This is the problem with the electoral system which is obsolete. The issue is not just gerrymandered districts but processes that are not uniform across the states. If this was allowed to continue then our basic system of government would have been undermined.

  6. legion says:

    @gVOR08: When people say “the price of liberty is eternal vigilance,” I’m not sure this is what they had in mind… but you’re not wrong.

  7. Rick Almeida says:

    This story illustrates well the old idea that “sunshine is the best disinfectant”.

    Public attention killed this thing.

  8. Fiona says:

    Thank goodness. The fact that these bills have been introduced only in swing states heavily gerrymandered in Republicans’ favor says all that needs to be said about the motives behind them.

  9. gVOR08 says:

    @Fiona: And of the Republicans in my personal acquaintance, not a one of them would see this as a cheat. There are days I swear conservatives never do anything except for selfish reasons, and they always rationalize themselves into believing that they have nothing but the most noble motivations.

  10. swbarnes2 says:

    Hmmm, 26/26 Democrats voted against this bill… 24/28 Republican voted for it…

    But according to Doug, there’s no difference between the parties.

    Doug, can you affirm that you voted for one of those 4 Republicans who voted against?

    Or did you vote for a Republican who supported it?

  11. Franklin says:

    @Tsar Nicholas: When are you going to add something to the conversation that is useful? Being a hate-filled idiot isn’t doing us or you any good.