Other states considering similar changes include Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania, which share a common dynamic with Virginia: They went for Obama in the past two elections but are controlled by Republicans at the state level.
Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus recently voiced support for the effort, saying it is something that “a lot of states that have been consistently blue that are fully controlled red ought to be looking at.”
Sean Spicer, a Priebus spokesman, said Thursday: “For these states, it would make them more competitive, but it’s not our call to tell them how to apportion their votes.”
No state is moving quicker than Virginia, where state senators are likely to vote on the plan as soon as next week.
If successful, Virginia would become the third state to adopt the congressional district system, after Nebraska and Maine.
The bill’s sponsor, state Sen. Charles W. Carrico Sr. (R-Grayson County), said he wants to give smaller communities a bigger voice. “The last election, constituents were concerned that it didn’t matter what they did, that more densely populated areas were going to outvote them,” he said.
“This is coming to me from not just my Republican constituents,” added Carrico, whose district voted overwhelmingly for Republican Mitt Romney in last year’s presidential election. “I want to be a voice for a region that feels they have no reason to come to the polls.”
The number of electoral college votes each state gets is determined by its congressional representation — one is awarded for each House member and each senator. The District’s three electoral votes are equal to the amount it would have if it were a state.
The proposed changes in Virginia probably would lead to a much smaller role for the swing state in presidential elections.
With 13 electoral votes, Virginia is one of the most attractive prizes in the nation. But most of its 11 congressional districts are either heavily Republican or heavily Democratic, so candidates would have little incentive to campaign on the possibility of peeling off an electoral vote or two. The state’s two remaining electoral votes would be determined by whichever candidate won the most congressional districts.
State Sen. Donald A. McEachin (D-Henrico) called the proposal one of Republicans’ many “sore-loser bills” related to elections and voting.
“The bill is absolutely a partisan bill aimed at defying the will of the voters, giving Republican presidential candidates most of Virginia’s electoral votes, regardless of who carries the state,” he said.