Remember all the chicanery Republican legislatures across the country tried in order to hand the election to Mitt Romney? The voter ID laws? The voting list purges? The reduction of voting stations in Dem-heavy districts? It was all pretty shameless and gross. It may have inspired more turnout among Dem voters. And it didn’t work.
In a perfect world, Republicans would’ve taken the experience as a sign that, well, cheating isn’t really worth it. But, of course, this is not a perfect world — so they’ve decided instead to cheat harder:
A Republican-backed bill that would end Virginia’s winner-takes-all method of apportioning its 13 electoral votes in presidential elections cleared its first legislative hurdle Wednesday.
A Senate Privileges and Elections subcommittee recommended Sen. Bill Carrico’s bill on a 3-3 party line vote Wednesday, advancing it to consideration by the GOP-dominated full committee next week. Republicans control the Senate and House in Virginia, and Gov. Bob McDonnell is a Republican.
The bill would apportion electors by congressional district to the candidate who wins each of the state’s 11 districts. The candidate who carries a majority of the districts would also win the two electors not tied to congressional districts.
I think most folks get an intuitive sense that if the party that just lost an election in which it went all f’ing out to beat the president is the one proposing changes to the electoral system, the changes probably aren’t entirely on the up-and-up. The fact that the proposal is somewhat complicated, that the good-faith benefit isn’t obvious, should raise more red flags still. But to understand the guileless simplicity of the Virginia GOP’s power-grab (which, by the way, is their second just this week) you need do no more than read Jamelle Bouie‘s pithy breakdown:
Because Democratic voters tend to cluster in highly-populated urban areas, and Republican voters tend to reside in more sparsely populated regions, this makes land the key variable in elections—to win the majority of a state’s electoral votes, your voters will have to occupy the most geographic space.
The goal then is to many “urban” centers — where a bunch of people live — no more significant to the presidential election in Virginia than, say, a bunch of sparsely populated hillsides and hollers.
Bouie likens this move to “building an electoral facsimile of Jim Crow,” which is hard to disagree with on its face, though it’s worth noting how hard it is to disentangle Republican hatred for Democrats from their generally not-so-progressive views on race and ethnicity. Which is to say, if Virginia’s cities were full of white college kids, exclusively, I’d still imagine state GOPers would like this idea plenty. I’m less confident that they’d bother to carry it out.
Anyway, to get a better sense of just how egregious in every way this is, check Dave Weigel‘s tally of how the plan, were it in place during 2012, would’ve impacted the results Obama-Romney in Virginia:
Look at the map from 2012. Mitt Romney won the 1st (53%), 4th (50%), 5th (53%), 6th (59%), 7th (57%), 9th (63%), and 10th (50%) districts. Barack Obama won the four remaining districts — the 2nd (50%), 3rd (79%), 8th (68%), and 11th (62%). Had the Carrico plan been in place in 2012, Mitt Romney would have won nine of Virginia’s electoral votes, and Barack Obama would have won four — even though Obama won the popular vote of the state by nearly 150,000 ballots, and four percentage points.
Placing aside our well-deserved umbrage at the plan, though, I can’t really imagine what these Republicans think they’re doing in the medium- or long-term. As I noted above, there’s reason to believe that the vote-suppression measures brought about by state-level Republicans in Ohio, Florida, Pennsylvania, and elsewhere were self-defeating. They were certainly bad for the GOP’s national image.
So do Virginia Republicans think Bob McDonnell, who very much is interested in being the next president, won’t remember this? Even if he somehow were to be dumb enough to give himself a big black eye for 2016, do they imagine the state’s voters won’t notice? Are they under the impression that some clever redistricting means they no longer have to win reelection? And let’s just say that somehow this becomes the law in Virginia and places like it; could the response from Democrats be anything other than a campaign to make national voting standards a federal issue? Or even the long-sought destruction of the Electoral College itself?
The plan, then, is not simply offensive — it’s stupid on its own terms. May it die a swift, ignominious death.