Legislation that would apportion Virginia's electoral votes by the winner of each congressional district, instead of the current winner-take-all system, emerged from a Senate subcommittee Wednesday without a recommendation.
The vote in a Privileges and Elections subcommittee was 3-3. Sen. Jill Holtzman Vogel, R-Fauquier, the subcommittee chairwoman, abstained. The legislation now heads to the full committee, where a 10-5 GOP majority is likely to send it to the full Senate for a vote.
Sen. Charles W. Carrico Sr., R-Grayson, the sponsor of Senate Bill 723, said he brought the bill because his rural constituents feel "that their voices are not heard" in presidential elections. He said currently only Maine and Nebraska award electoral votes based on the turnout in each congressional district. Maine and Nebraska also award the statewide winner two electoral votes.
Sen. John S. Edwards, D-Roanoke, said switching to an apportionment system has the potential for "a really skewed election" in which a presidential candidate could win Virginia's popular vote but still lose eight or nine of the state's 13 electoral votes based on congressional district results.
Critics of the legislation, this time around mostly Democrats, have labeled the bill and others like it "sore-losers bills," considering President Barack Obama's Virginia victory in 2012.
Despite Obama's popular vote victory in 2012, an apportionment of Virginia's electoral vote by congressional districts would have given him only four votes to nine for Republican nominee Mitt Romney.
Sen. Thomas A. Garrett Jr., R-Louisa, said changing the electoral apportionment system would drive greater interest in presidential politics to other areas of the commonwealth. "All these small localities will be brought into the process," he said, noting that Sen. John C. Miller, D-Newport News, proposed similar legislation in 2008.
"There's no partisan ax to grind here," he said.
But Sen. J. Chapman Petersen, D-Fairfax, said the current state of partisan redistricting would effectively disenfranchise the will of the people under an apportionment system
"You have packed all Democrats in the state into three congressional districts -- the deck is stacked," Petersen told fellow committee members.
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