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bossob's avatar

Is the law being passed by Virgiania state Republicans another step towards disenfranchising voters?

Asked by bossob (5904points) January 24th, 2013

They are attempting to award electoral college votes by district rather than a statewide majority. In this system, Romney would have won Virginia with a minority of votes in the last election.

First, they gerry-mandered the districts when it was time for re-districting in 2010. That allowed the Republicans to maintain the House majority with a minority of votes cast overall. Now, this attempt uses the gerrymandered districts to vote for president as well.

Isn’t it past time for the people to take away control of the voting process from the parties? Doing away with the Electoral College would be a great first step on the national level.

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23 Answers

SadieMartinPaul's avatar

It would be nice if more Virginia voters could become disgusted and turn their backs on the state Republicans.

What you don’t mention is the odious logistics of this move. Republicans had to wait for the right opportunity, which was this past Monday. (1) The legislature was in session on Inauguration Day and Martin Luther King day, thus showing disrespect for both the first African American president and history’s greatest civil rights leader. (2) The sneaky redistricting move succeeded because Sen. Harry L. Marsh III, a civil rights lawyer and Richmond’s first African American mayor, traveled to D.C. for the inauguration. With Sen. Marsh safely out of the way, the bill was approved 20–19.

El_Cadejo's avatar

I never understood why laws were allowed to be passed without everyone present for the vote…

wundayatta's avatar

If this system had been in place in 2000, Gore would have won the election. If this system had been in place in a few selected states this year, Romney would have won the election, despite losing the popular vote by 5 million.

Do Republicans want to do what they can to make Virginia a force for backwardness and unfairness? Of course they do. Do Democrats seek to make Virginia a bastion of progressiveness and fairness? Of course they do.

This is the battle for peace, justice and the American way, as always. Nothing is new. It is all about self interest as people see it at the time. There is no grand principle here. Certainly not fairness.

WestRiverrat's avatar

The same thing was being done in 1812 when the term gerrymandering was created. Only difference now is that there is a Republican party and a Democratic party instead of a Whig party and a Democratic party.

Jaxk's avatar

Gerrymandering is illegal.

ETpro's avatar

The move is underway in every swing state where Republicans control the legislature, and will continue to control the legislature due to extreme gerrymandering. The electoral vote will be, if they are successful, awarded by gerrymandered district in those states in 2016. Thus, unless the vote is an overwhelming landslide, they win. In the worst case states, Republicans win the most seats in the state legislature even if they lose the raw vote by 2/1 margin. Apparently love of democracy is just something the people behind this use to demonize others or as a pretext to export another war to bring democracy at the point of a gun.

Seeing that their ideas are rejected, they have decided to not change ideology, just change election rules so the minority rules.

@Jaxk Gerrymandering is illegal, but difficult to stop. The above link includes references to a number of states where even a landslide victory in raw vote results in the losing GOP getting more seats than the winning Democratic Party. Voter fraud is illegal too, yet Republicans constantly claim elections were stolen by it. A full 49% of Republicans polled thought ACORN stole the 2012 election for Obama. Thanks be at least 51% know that ACORN no longer exists.

rojo's avatar

Yes. While I do not have a problem with this since I actually believe that this is the way it should be until we eliminate the electoral college, the answer is yes. This is a ploy to get more votes in theri favor. They will be totally against it should their candidate be the winner in 2016.

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tedd's avatar

@Jaxk It is?

Tell that to my state legislators here in Ohio.

Republicans redrew the map in 2010. Then they received just about half of the vote in the house races last November. The result, one would imagine, would be an 8–8 split between our house seats, or maybe a 9–7 one way or the other.

Instead it’s 12–4, Republicans leading Dems.

Same thing over in Pennsylvania. Republicans at state level gerrymander the map, in 2010 they get about half the vote, and come out ahead by 13–5.

JLeslie's avatar

Since I tend to be against the electoral college, allowing electoral votes to not be voted in one black within the state sounds good to me. It will represent the people better most likely. However, tweaking with the district lines can affect the results of this obviously. If the Republicans want to do it to win elections, they might be surprised when sometimes it costs them elections.

I am pretty sure the states that already allow this, often still vote as a single block. I am not sure all the reasons for this, I would need to research it more. But, it might be so ething you want to look into.

@Jaxk I saw a Republican (I wish I could remember who she was) before the election saying how gerrymandering is good for minorities, gives them more power. That is what she was trying to sell anyway. She wasn’t denying the gerrymandering was going on.

tedd's avatar

@JLeslie Nebraska and Maine currently award their electoral votes by district. Nebraska almost always votes the same way across the state because it is uniformly conservative. 2008 was a rare exception, as Obama won the eastern most district (home to the largest city).

Maine has also almost always voted the same across the state. It hasn’t split in any recent elections. There is often a belief though that conservatives may be able to pick up the rural district. However the scenarios in which they would pick up the district, would probably entail winning so many other states that it wouldn’t matter.

JLeslie's avatar

@tedd Thanks for that information. So, in those states is there a mandate for the electors to go along with their district popular votes? Or, do the electors get to choose whether to go along with the majority of electors or go with the district?

tedd's avatar

@Jaxk Thats great, and I hope the supreme court ends up getting a look at these new districts. They are just as bad. The amount of people in the districts isn’t the problem now though, what they seem to have done is taken large city centers (typically democratic strongholds) and sliced them into several parts, and paired each part with a massive swathe of rural area (typically republican strongholds).

The result is the Dems winning a few house seats by sweeping majorities (they typically have to have one small district in the heart of the city center), while losing the majority of house seats in elections where the republicans win based on the sheer magnitude of the district being conservative vs maybe one neighborhood out of the city. It gives you results like in Ohio, where half the house votes were for Dems, but only ¼ of the seats ended up going to Dems…. and the districts are not at all localized, they stretch across the whole state in ridiculous shapes.

In principal, I am actually quite fond of the idea of distributing electoral votes by district. It would give a voice to people in states like California and Texas, who are too out voted by the majorities there. But in practice, if one side of the aisle is allowed to draw the maps like this, so that clear majorities are ignored… then we have a problem.

If every state in the country distributed electors by district in the last election Mitt Romney would have won the presidency by about 30 points, while being 5.5 million votes shy of Obama’s total.

Jaxk's avatar


I don’t disagree that both parties tend to draw these lines in thier favor when they can. Generally the rules for redistricting limit their ability to do so but it’s not perfect. One issue has changed in the recent elections that has contributed to what you see as Gerrymandering. Blacks have gone almost 100% for Obama. So any district that includes large population of blacks will have a disproportionate outcome. College towns may have a similar slant. That’s not a result of Gerrymandering but rather a result of the slicing and dicing of the electorate that we’ve seen in the last few elections. And of course the voting rights act requires districts to be drawn to insure minority representation.

rojo's avatar

A few election cycles ago here in Texas they were resetting the boundaries (they do it all the time and invariably the courts get involved) but in this particular case, there was an article in the paper regarding someone who had written a computer program wherein you would generate a given number of maps that met the criteria specified, lets say 200 possibilities. He proposed that this be done and then each congressman would get to eliminate one of their choosing to get the number of acceptable possiblities down to workable number. Then the congressmen vote on them, continuing to winnowing them down until there was a clear winner. The theory being that it would take out all the partisan bickering and manipulation that goes along with it.
As I recall, it made too much sense so they didn’t even give it serious consideration.

Jaxk's avatar


I don’t know if this is the same program but it is computer generated with the same idea. There are concerns that voting districts and communities are ignored creating other conflicts. For instance I live in a small isolated town that might be craved up into 2 or more districts. That makes the whole thing more expensive and unmanageable. One of the goals of redistricting is to insure communities with common interests have a voice. Here’s an article that shows some of the problems using a computer to do this.

SadieMartinPaul's avatar

I’m amazed that a question about little ol’ Virginia is getting so much attention, and so many insightful, scholarly replies, at Fluther.

JLeslie's avatar

@PaulSadieMartin Why should the commonwealth of Virginia not get so much attention? This topic could easily come up in many more states.

SadieMartinPaul's avatar

@JLeslie All the more reason why I’m pleased about the attention. People are noticing Virginia’s shenanigans, which might prevent the same thing from happening in other states.

Paradox25's avatar

I know full well that the Republicans would have easily won my state, Pennsylvania, with such a system in place. The Republicans are smart enough to know that most voters in the rural areas of many states tend to vote in their favor.

bossob's avatar

The Republicans are trying to set up a system where the minority of voters can elect a presidential candidate.

What amazes me is that citizens across the political spectrum haven’t revolted against the blatant grabs for power at the expense of democracy. I understand that it happens behind the scenes, by both parties, all the time. But the callous disdain that the Republican party has publicly demonstrated towards the rights of citizens to participate fairly in their government, is just audacious.

rojo's avatar

@Jaxk Interesting article. It does appear as thought the author is presenting singular either/or choices. I think that the proposal to generate a (to use a local term) shitpot full of choices and then have the lege winnow it down was an attempt to address the iniquities of a computer generated redistricting with all the possible problems they presented. and still maintain human input.
I would also say that we have the same problem now. My own district splits counties and was designed to incorporate two bastions of conservatism, Waco (with Baylor) and Bryan/College Station (with Texas A&M) into one district to defeat any possible progressive influence. I believe prior to that, Waco itself was split in two districts.
So, in my opinion, a computer generated map would do no worse than we do it at this time. I would just remove the partisanship.

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