FairVote, a non-partisan advocacy group, wants to radically transform the Electoral College through state legislation. So do Virginia Republicans pushing a scheme to reapportion their electoral votes by Congressional district. But the similarities end there as FairVote is condemning the Virginia bill as a partisan perversion of their own mission. FairVote executive director Rob Richie described the Virginia plan as “an incredibly unfair and indefensible proposal” to TPM and said he was drafting a message to supporters rallying against its passage. He testified against a similar proposal in Pennsylvania, whose lawmakers briefly considered splitting its electoral votes for the 2012 election before backing down amid a public outcry against the maneuver.
Virginia’s bill, which emerged from a subcommittee on a tie vote Wednesday, would award the state’s electoral votes by individual congressional districts, with its two at-large electors going to whichever candidate won the most districts. But the districts, which were redrawn under Republican control in 2010, are so gerrymandered that President Obama would have won just four votes to Mitt Romney’s nine despite handily winning the state’s popular vote. As Richie noted, the result would be to massively water down Democratic votes concentrated into a few urban districts — many of them cast by African Americans — while boosting the impact of whiter and more rural districts.
FairVote has complained about the electoral vote system’s winner-take-all method on a national level in similar terms, charging it with encouraging candidates to ignore safe states in favor of a handful of battleground states, and instead calling for a national popular vote to determine the president. But it’s also warned that states can’t disarm the system unilaterally without threatening basic principles of “one man, one vote” and making things even worse. That’s why its proposed fix is to pass state legislation giving each state’s electoral votes to the national popular vote winner but not having those laws take effect until after enough states to form a 270-electoral-vote majority signed on. So far eight states and the District of Columbia have passed bills that would activate should such a threshold be reached.