What is Gerrymandering: The GOP Bill to Change the Electoral College in Virginia


Virginia Republicans are proposing to change the way in which the state counts its electoral college votes in a manner that would weaken the influence of urban voters, reports the Reston Patch.

Proposed by state Sen. Charles Carrico (R-Galax), the bill would switch the state to a system where Electoral College votes are assigned by congressional district, rather than the winner-takes-all system currently in place.

Carrico said the current system unfairly penalizes rural voters. "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," he told the Roanoke Times. 

Under Carrico's proposed revisions, the candidate with the most votes in a congressional district would gain one electoral vote, while the candidate who won the majority of the districts would gain two at-large votes. If no candidate won a majority of the districts, then the two at-large votes would be given to the winner of the statewide popular vote.

Never mind that the Virginia GOP just gerrymandered their congressional districts during a brief tie-breaking absence of Democratic Sen. Henry Marsh for the presidential inauguration, turning what is today a 20-20 tie in the state senate into a potential 27-13 split by clustering minority and urban voters into smaller districts.

State Sen. Chap Petersen (D-Fairfax) called the new measure "anti-Democratic" and added, "if congressional districts were drawn by a non-partisan commission and evenly – or even roughly – balanced between parties or the population, I'd have much less heartburn about this. Maybe I'd even support it." Petersen says that after the redistricting "fiasco," he has talked privately to several Republicans who think the new measure may go too far.

And the media response, at least, has been overwhelmingly negative.

Atlantic editor David Graham called the bill "how to win states and disenfranchise people," saying that instead of evolving in policy or running better electoral campaigns, the GOP now will "try to find ways to make sure fewer peoples' votes matter." The Washington Post's Aaron Blake found, "if every state awarded its electoral votes by congressional district, it's likely that Mitt Romney would have won the 2012 presidential election despite losing the popular vote by nearly four percentage points."

As Slate discovered, had these new changes been implemented in 2012, then Mitt Romney would have won nine of the state's electoral votes, and Obama just four. The president won the popular vote in Virginia by roughly 150,000 votes.

Given these statistics, it's hard to see these legislative efforts as anything but pushes to disenfranchise undesirable voters, i.e. those who vote for Democrats.

"…Better to just dilute the opposition and give Republicans their man in the White House, will of the voters be damned," Joy-Ann Reid wrote in the Miami Herald. "Talk about constitutional originalism! It seems the three-fifths compromise lives."

Perhaps sensing the toxic reception of the laws, prominent Virginia GOP leaders have been wary of the measures. Governor Bob McDonnell, a Republican, says he does not support the new vote allocation scheme, while a spokesman for Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling said that he had "grave concerns" about the GOP redistricting plan.