In Virginia, our side did it first: In Virginia, the drive to give the most electoral votes to the loser seems to be losing steam.
As Laura Vozzella reports in the Washington Post, Virginia’s Republican governor came out against the scheme yesterday. So did “two GOP senators who sit on the committee that will decide the bill’s fate next week.”
In the end, Virginia may not be for fixers! But uh-oh! As Vozzella described the apparent death of the coup, we were struck by this piece of Virginia history:
VOZZELLA (1/25/13): In Virginia, as in most states, the presidential candidate who wins the popular vote receives all of that state’s electoral votes. A bill proposed Sen. Charles W. Carrico Sr. (R-Grayson County) would instead apportion electoral votes by congressional district. Had Carrico’s bill been in place for the 2012 elections, Obama would have claimed four of the state’s electoral votes instead of all 13.Say what? According to Vozzella, Democrats had tried to change Virginia’s electoral vote procedure during the years when the state seemed incurably red. If true, this means that Carrico is just the latest in a long line of statesmen recommending such a plan.
Obama’s 2008 win snapped a 40-year losing streak for Democrats in Virginia. During that long drought, some Democrats thought tinkering with the electoral college might be in order. They filed more than a dozen bills to that effect between 2001 and 2012.
All of those bills died in committee, the same fate Carrico’s measure is expected to meet next week before the Senate Privileges and Elections Committee.
If Vozzella’s report is correct, Carrico can correctly voice those deathless words:
They started it! They did it first!
Searching Nexis files for the Washington Post, we couldn’t find a record of these past Democratic proposals. But then, we switched to the Richmond Times-Dispatch, home town paper for the Virginia state government.
Sure enough! In January 2001, Tyler Whitley reported the first of these Democratic schemes. And according to Whitley, the proposal was a reprise of an even earlier effort:
WHITLEY (1/15/01): Del. James M. Scott of Fairfax County and state Sen. Mary Margaret Whipple of Arlington County, both Democrats, have introduced bills that would make Virginia's Electoral College representation proportional rather than winner-take-all.Because Democratic votes are heavily concentrated in certain Virginia congressional districts, Democrats had less to gain from this proposal than Republicans do today—though only in one sense:
Even though a proportional system nationwide would have increased Texas Gov. George W. Bush's Electoral College margin, both Democrats said they feel a change in the Virginia law would make the voters feel more involved in the presidential election.
Under the current law, all 13 Virginia electoral votes—one for each of the 11 congressional districts and one for each of the state's two U.S. senators—went to Bush because he carried Virginia. Under the bills, introduced Thursday in the General Assembly, Democrat Al Gore would have earned three electoral college votes in Virginia. He won the 3rd, 8th and 11th congressional districts. Whipple lives in the 8th District and Scott the 11th.
Scott introduced similar legislation in 1992, but it got nowhere. He thinks Gore's popular vote margin and the narrow electoral vote margin by Bush—he received 271 to Gore's 266—might help the legislation's prospects.
In Campaign 2000, Candidate Gore would have gained only three electoral votes from Virginia, not the nine which would have gone to Romney via Carrico's proposal. But good lord! Those three votes would have changed the outcome of that famous election! With those three votes, Gore would have won the Electoral College, 269-268.
If Vozzella’s reporting is correct, Democrats continued to offer such proposals during Virginia’s endless red years. That ended this year, when Carrico’s proposal briefly turned the tables.
Certain distinctions should be noted. Whatever its provenance or intention, Carrico’s proposal was part of a wider set of Republican efforts, encompassing half a dozen states. And because of voter distribution in Virginia, it would have proposed a truly absurd result in 2012, with Obama—the winner of Virginia’s popular vote—getting only four of the state’s 13 electoral votes.
Under Carrico's gonzo proposal, similar absurd results could obtain in future years, any time a Democrat won Virginia's popular vote.
But we were eager to speak up today in defense of the much maligned Carrico. Is Carrico a snarling racist trying to disenfranchise “those people?” Or is he simply a servant to Coal—and the latest in a long line of political tit-for-tatters?