How the worm turns! Democrats went apoplectic when a southside Republican legislator introduced a bill to change the way Virginia's 13 electoral votes are awarded from the current winner-take-all system. Even the Democratic National Committee warned that the GOP was trying to "rig the Electoral College vote appropriation system in favor of Republicans in 2016."
But as The Washington Examiner's Steve Contorno reported, Virginia Democrats have been pushing their own "sore loser bill" for years. Del. Vivian Watts, D-Annandale, admitted that she introduced a nearly identical bill "over years and years that Virginia was never in play."
Sponsored by state Sen. Charles Carrico, R-Grayson County, the current bill would give one electoral vote to the victorious party in each of Virginia's 11 congressional districts, with the two remaining votes going to whomever wins the majority of the districts. Under this system, President Obama -- who won Virginia's 2012 popular vote 51-47 percent -- would have gotten only four of the commonwealth's electoral votes instead of all 13.
Gov. Bob McDonnell is wisely noted that Virginia's electoral system is not broken, so there's no need to fix it. Because it would favor rural areas over urban, and diminish the commonwealth's "spoiler" role in close elections, the measure is unlikely to pass. But the idea is gaining traction in at least five other battleground states.
Nebraska and Maine already award electoral votes based on congressional district totals, and apocalypse has not occurred. In 2008, Barack Obama won Nebraska's 2nd Congressional District by 1.2 percent and was awarded one of that Red state's five electoral votes, even though John McCain handily won the statewide popular vote by 15 percent. And Maine has never had to split its electoral votes since adopting this alternative method in 1972.
The Electoral College's role is to act as a constitutional safeguard against mass hysteria and mob rule. Electors are pledged -- but not legally required -- to vote for the winner of the popular vote. As happened in 2000, in rare cases a candidate who does not receive a majority of the popular vote can still be elected president.
Sanctimonious squealing aside, this Republican bill is just as much about gaining partisan advantage as the similar bill Democrats pushed in years past. And if it wasn't a big deal when Democrats tried to "rig" the system to benefit themselves politically, why all the ridiculous overreactions when Republicans try to do the same thing?