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A new Virginia plan for awarding electoral votes to Republicans

How to turn a minority of popular votes into a majority of electoral votes.

Speaking of ways to make mischief with the Electoral College, here’s a pretty good one via Slate.

Virginia, like most states, has a winner-take-all system. Whichever presidential candidate wins a plurality of the statewide popular vote wins all 13 of the state’s electoral vote. After being dominated by Republicans over most of recent history, Pres. Obama managed to narrowly carry Virginia in both 2008 and 2012.

Republican State Sen. Charles Carrico has written a bill to change that so that the presidential ticket that wins each congressional district would get one electoral vote. The partisan motives are obvious. Most of Virginian’s congressional districts vote Republican. Most of the state’s Dems are packed into four congressional districts in the area just outside of Richmond and in the Washington, D.C. suburbs.

Thus, if this plan had been in effect in November, Mitt Romney would have won seven of the 11 districts, good for seven the electoral votes. This part is similar to a plan that is actually in place in Maine and Nebraska. But every state also gets two “bonus” electoral votes (theoretically this reflects that each state has two U.S. senators; in reality it was another sop that the framers threw to the small states so their impact on the presidential choice would be greater than their population would merit). In Maine and Nebraska, the two “bonus” electoral votes go to the statewide popular vote winner. If that plan had been in effect in Virginia, Obama would have received the two bonus votes.

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But not under Carrico’s clever plan. He proposes to award the two bonus electoral votes NOT to the statewide popular vote winner, but to whoever carried the most congressional districts. Bingo. Under the Carrico plan, in 2012, Mitt Romney, who got fewer votes than Obama statewide, would have received nine of Virginia’s 13 electoral votes. And, given the way the state’s voters are distributed and the way the congressional district lines are drawn, the Carrico plan would advantage future Republican tickets as well.

On its face, at least, such a plan would be consistent with the Constitution, which leaves it up to each state to decide how to award its electoral votes.

hat tip: Ray Schoch.