The Virginia Senator Who Wants to Gerrymander the Electoral College Vote Explains Himself

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Dec. 12 2012 10:32 AM

The Virginia Senator Who Wants to Gerrymander the Electoral College Vote Explains Himself

I have a new piece up -- hey, over there -- about the heightened Republican/conservative chatter about the pesky urban vote. There was too much turnout in the cities! They didn't see it coming! Maybe the electoral college needs to be fixed so that rural congressional districts get electors.

The inspiration for the story was a new bill from Sen. Charles Carrico, a Virginia Republican from the rural -- and increasingly out-voted -- southwest part of the state. I talked to him today about the strategy, which starts in earnest when the legislature returns on January 9. "We'll introduce the piece of legislation, and we'll be hearing from both sides," he said. "From those that are critical of it, from those that are positive. It comes down for me, as a rural legislator, to a fairness issue. I'm making sure the people of my district are represented."

Carrico argued that the electoral vote split wasn't "really a partisan issue," and "could cut both ways," depending on who was winning a state. "George W. Bush won the electoral college and lost the popular vote." And the most head-scratching part of his proposal, which would assign Virginia's two statewide electorals to whoever won the most gerrymandered districts, was negotiatiable. "We're still not sure we're going to leave it at that," he said. "If we tweak the legislation somewhat to allow those votes to the statewide winner, the metropolitan voters may understand that their vote is going to be heard."

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What does "heard" mean, anyway? Carrico went a little further than he went in his quotes to other media. As long as the state vote was winner-take-all, politicians tried to max out the vote where the most people live. "You see it during campaigns," he said. "The candidates are more laser-focused on bigger swing states." The effect, during the "current administration, is that you see regulations on coal and farming in rural areas that are just being devastated at this point. If there was more accountability to those voters, this would be more of an issue to politicians when they run for office."

The next ideal step for the proposal? Carrico wants it on the ballot during the 2014 midterm elections.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter.