Changing state presidential electoral rules not a priority, GOP leaders say

Chris Moody

CHARLOTTE, N.C.—Despite all the discussion of a small movement in the Virginia legislature to change the state's rules to grant presidential electoral votes proportionately based on congressional districts, the effort is not a top concern for members of the Republican National Committee, who met here to re-elect a chairman this week.

Virginia GOP Chairman Pat Mullins said in an interview on Friday that he hadn't yet read the bill, which is set for a vote in a Virginia state Senate committee next week, but that changing the Electoral College rules in Virginia is "not at all" on his list of priorities.

"If the base committee approves it, then we'll all take a look at it and see what we're going to do," Mullins said.

The bill, which has been introduced unsuccessfully 13 times in the past decade, is unlikely to get that far. Virginia state Sen. Ralph Smith, a Republican on the state Senate Privileges and Elections Committee, has voiced opposition to the measure, which means it will likely never make it out of the committee and to a vote on the floor.

Even in the unlikely scenario that the bill makes it through both houses of the Virginia legislature, Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell wouldn't sign it into law, a top aide said.

“The governor does not support this legislation," McDonnell spokesman Tucker Martin told Yahoo News. "He believes Virginia’s existing system works just fine as it is. He does not believe there is any need for a change.”

The measure, which scraps the current winner-take-all electoral vote system in favor of assigning electoral votes based on congressional districts, would likely aid Republicans as applied to the current makeup of the Virginia population.

In the 2012 presidential race between President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, for example, Obama would have received only four electoral votes instead of the 13 he was granted for winning the Virginia popular vote.

At the RNC meeting, suggestions on changing a state's electoral vote allocation received mixed reviews.

Mississippi Republican committeeman Henry Barbour, who is leading a task force charged with writing a plan to increase Republican chances to win elections, called it a "gimmick."

"States need to be able to decide for themselves, and I respect that. For me, I'm not crazy about it. It seems like a gimmick," Barbour said. "I want to see us win because we have the best ideas, the best message, the best candidate, and they'll get the most votes. I'm not enthralled with that idea, but if that's what somebody in Virginia wants to do, that's their business."

He added a word of caution to anyone thinking of proposing similar bills: "If it looks like we're trying to win by anything other than trying to get the most votes, it's not going to sit well with the American people," he said. "And it will end up unraveling."

Newly re-elected RNC Chairman Reince Priebus, who has no jurisdiction over states' decisions, said he was "intrigued" by the idea, but he would not make it an RNC priority.

"It's a state issue," Priebus said. "It's something that a lot of states are looking at and in some cases they should look at it. ... Personally I'm pretty intrigued by it."

With the exception of Maine and Nebraska, 48 states currently implement winner-take-all rules for presidential elections.