Virginia Bill Would Allocate Electoral Votes Proportionally

Posted by Claire Daviss on January 29, 2015
A new bill in the Virginia State Senate (SB 786) would change the way the state allocates its electoral votes during presidential elections. Currently the state awards all 13 of its electoral votes to the winner of the statewide popular vote. Under this bill, Virginia would award its electoral votes to the candidates in proportion to their total share of the statewide popular vote. This is also known as the whole number proportional system.

Here's how it works:

  • The whole number proportional system, like the one proposed in Virginia, divides electoral votes among the candidates based on the percentage the candidates win in the state.
  • They must, according to the Constitution, award whole numbers of electoral votes. No splitting them up.
  • This means that to win electoral votes, candidates need to pass certain "breakpoints." For example, in a state with three electoral votes, a candidate needs 16.7% of the statewide popular vote to win one electoral vote; 50% to win two electoral votes; and 83.3% to win all three electoral votes.

What if Virginia had used the whole number proportional system in 2012?
  • In 2012, Obama won 51.1% and Romney won 47.3% of Virginia's statewide popular vote.
  • Virginia would have awarded 7 electoral votes to Obama and 6 electoral votes to Romney.
  • Only one of the state's 13 electoral votes would have been a "swing" vote. Both Obama and Romney safely earned the 42% necessary to win 6 electoral votes each. Obama only narrowly won the 50% necessary to win 7 electoral votes total. Romney would have had to win 2.7% more of the statewide popular vote to swing one more vote in his favor.

Currently Virginia is a swing state. With only 1 electoral vote to swing, however, Virginia would likely join the large majority of spectator states in the 2016 election.

Earlier this week, the Virginia Committee on Privileges and Elections voted to "pass by indefinitely" SB 786. In effect, they have decided not to consider the bill at this time.

To learn more about the whole number proportional system, and what would happen if every state were to adopt it, read FairVote's latest report, Fuzzy Math: Wrong Way Reforms for Allocating Electoral Votes.

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