Gaming the electoral college, and an unfortunate fraction

Sen. Bill Carrico’s proposed revamping of the way Virginia’s electoral votes are awarded has generated a predictable amount of hyperbole. But tinkering with the numbers — or gaming the system — is a practice that is almost as old, and bipartisan, as the Republic:

So everyone has done it — Republicans, Democrats, even Federalists.

And the bill may fail in the Senate on its own, as both Ralph Smith and Jill Vogel have voiced their opposition. But if their objections aren’t enough, one sure-fire way to kill this idea is if a peculiarity in last year’s votes becomes the new narrative:

Obama’s 51.15 percent of Virginia’s popular vote would have earned him roughly 31 percent of Virginia’s electoral votes if the Carrico bill had been law.

And when the latter figure is divided by the former — creating a proportional reduction in the strength of his popular vote tally — the result is that a vote for Obama would only have the weight of three-fifths of each vote he received last year.

A quirk, a fluke, an anomaly. But also one with enough historical baggage to make Carrico’s bill deader than Marley.

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  • MD Russ

    I would be concerned about this proposal if it wasn’t for two considerations. First, Maine and Nebraska have been apportioning electoral votes for some time now without creating a Constitutional crisis. Second, electoral vote apportioning by Congressional district is certainly more justifiable than the “Gore Solution” that several blue states are seeking to adopt, including the Peoples Republic of Maryland. Aiming to avoid a future election in which the candidate with the most popular votes nationwide loses in the Electoral College, the Gore Solution would have each state award its electoral votes to the candidate who wins the most popular votes nationwide, regardless of that candidate’s popular vote in the state. In effect, this system would leave the election of the President up to the voters of New York City, Chicago, and coastal California. Nice. I doubt very seriously if that is what the Framers had in mind.

    I find it fascinating that liberals consider the Gore Solution to be a fair and reasonable scheme, even if an unconstitutional one, while squealing that the Virginia apportionment plan is a Republican dirty trick to steal elections.

  • I think the proposal would be much stronger if it awarded the two senate electors to whoever won the vote in the state, as opposed to whoever won the most congressional districts. Winning the state should have some perks.

  • SE VA MWC Alum

    IMHO, neither the Gore Solution nor this bill are fair. The current system works well. IF we want to nationalize it it should be straight popular vote. Emphasis on IF.

    • MD Russ

      One of the great debates that shaped our Constitution was whether the Federal government would represent the several states or the people at large. The compromise was that the President and the Senate would be elected by the states and the House would be elected by popular vote. The 17th Amendment bastardized the Senate, but was a necessary correction to a corrupt system that had evolved where special interest groups could “buy” Senate seats by bribing state legislators. If we are going to go further down that rabbit hole and elect the President by popular vote, then it is probably time to have a Constitutional Convention, as provided for in the original document, and put everything on the table. I doubt if anyone seriously thinks that would be a good idea.

      BTW, the Framers envisioned that the Vice-President would be the person who placed second in the Electoral College vote. Under that process, McCain and Romney would be Obama’s VP’s instead of Biden. We have managed to screw that up as well.

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