On the heels of a controversial mid-decade redistricting decision, the Virginia Senate is now considering a proposal to split the state’s electoral votes by congressional district. In the last election, Mitt Romney would have won nine of the state’s 13 electors under such an arrangement, despite winning only 47 percent of the state’s vote.
This can’t be viewed in a vacuum, but rather has to be seen in the context of similar GOP proposals in Ohio and Pennsylvania. The idea is that a Republican presidential candidate would always win a majority of these states’ electoral votes, since Democratic votes are concentrated in a few districts, almost always urban and/or minority-majority.
I think some of the criticisms of this are overblown. It doesn’t violate the principle of one-person/one-vote (except, arguably, Virginia’s decision to award the two statewide electoral votes to the winner of the most congressional districts), as instead of 8 million people competing to award 11 electors, plus the statewide electors, you have 11 groups of 720,000 people competing for one elector; the voters-to-elector ratio is the same.
Nor does it strike me as harshly undemocratic. The Electoral College is, after all, an anti-democratic institution; whether that is a positive or a negative is a subject for legitimate debate. But at the end of the day, the idea of Barack Obama winning 51 percent of the vote in a state and receiving 30 percent of the electors doesn’t strike me as that much more absurd than Mitt Romney winning 47 percent of the vote but receiving zero percent of the state’s electors.