Republicans in the Virginia Legislature have failed in their audacious attempt to change the allocation of the state’s 13 electoral votes from winner-take-all to a system in which the votes would be based on the outcome in congressional districts. Had the change been in effect in November, President Obama, who won 51.1% of the popular vote in Virginia, would have received only four electoral votes while Mitt Romney would have been awarded nine. That fuzzy math would have been made possible by the magic of gerrymandering.
The idea created a national uproar, and even Virginia’s Republican governor, Bob McDonnell, repudiated it. On Tuesday, a state Senate committee deep-sixed the idea, refusing to approve either the original congressional district allocation or a last-minute substitute that would have apportioned the state’s electoral votes based on the popular vote.
The original plan offends most Americans’ sense of fairness, but the Republicans’ fallback plan is harder to dismiss. Why shouldn’t the state’s electoral vote tally take account of ballots cast by the Romney-supporting minority? In 2012, the winner-take-all system disenfranchised Republican voters in Virginia the same way it nullified the votes of millions of Democrats in the red state of Texas. If every state went to a proportional system, we would be closer to the ideal of electing the president by popular vote (closer, but not all the way there, because each state has two electoral votes unrelated to population).