Vogel opposes GOP electoral changes

Posted: January 26, 2013

The Winchester Star

State Sen. Jill Vogel, R-Upperville

WINCHESTER — A Republican effort to change the way Virginia awards its 13 presidential electoral votes has sustained a major setback from an unlikely source: state Sen. Jill Vogel.

Vogel, R-Upperville, said Friday in an email to The Winchester Star that she will not support a bill that would replace Virginia’s current winner-take-all system of apportioning electoral votes with one that gives a vote to the winner of each congressional district.

“I simply don’t think that we need to make such a change right now,” she wrote in the email.

The bill made its way out of a Senate subcommittee on a 3-3 vote Wednesday, but without support from Vogel and Ralph Smith, R-Roanoke, — who also announced his opposition Friday — it is likely to die in the full 15-member Privileges and Elections Committee, which includes seven Democrats.

Democrats — who split the Senate 20-20 with Republicans, but are a sizeable minority in the House of Delegates — have called the bill an attempt by the GOP to change the rules in order to collect the electoral votes that eluded them during the 2008 and 2012 elections.

Only Nebraska and Maine divide their presidential electoral votes based on congressional district winners, with the former enacting the legislation in 1991 and the latter more than 40 years ago.

During that time, the two states combined have had one split verdict. That came in 2008, when Democratic nominee Barack Obama lost the popular vote in Nebraska to Republican presidential nominee John McCain, but carried one electoral vote from the state’s 2nd Congressional District.

But in Virginia — a more diverse state with a much larger population and sharper contrasts among urban, surburban and rural areas — the bill introduced by Sen. Bill Carrico, R-Grayson, could have a more dramatic effect.

In November, Obama won Virginia with nearly 2 million votes (51.1 percent), compared to 1.8 million (47.3 percent) for GOP nominee Mitt Romney. He won largely by receiving significant margins in the urban and suburban areas of Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads.

Yet, had Carrico’s bill been the law, Virginia would have given Romney nine electoral votes to Obama’s four.

Unlike Nebraska and Maine — which award their two at-large electoral votes to the popular vote winner — the Virginia bill would apportion its two to the winner of the most congressional districts.

Virginia is one of several states won by Obama in 2008 and 2012 in which Republican-controlled legislatures are considering doing away with the winner-take-all awarding of electoral votes.

Similar legislation is pending in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, and Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Preibus recently endorsed the efforts. Other GOP leaders have voiced support for the strategy as a way to rebound after Obama’s victory in November.

In Virginia, at least, such legislation appears dead, partially defeated by Vogel, a former Republican National Committee election lawyer.

The Associated Press contributed some information for this report.

— Contact Conor Gallagher at cgallagher@winchesterstar.com