The Electoral School system is not ‘one individual, one vote’


When it grew to become clear that President Donald Trump would lose the favored vote in November’s election, questions once more arose in regards to the Electoral School, and whether or not it’s honest.

A presidential candidate can lose the favored vote and nonetheless win the Electoral School vote, and subsequently the presidency. That’s what occurred with Trump in 2016.

The U.S. presidential election is absolutely the mix of 51 separate elections – one in every state and within the District of Columbia. The winner of the favored vote in every state will get a sure variety of electoral votes, and the candidate who collects not less than 270 wins the presidency.

Smaller states have fewer electoral votes than extra populous ones. In reality, some critics have complained that the Electoral School system encourages candidates to disregard voters in smaller states like Oklahoma and Mississippi, as an alternative specializing in campaigning in massive states like California and New York, which have numerous electoral votes. However these states even have numerous voters – so a nationwide well-liked vote system may additionally encourage candidates to pay extra consideration to locations the place many citizens are concentrated.

I’m a professor of political science who has analyzed elections in American politics. I in contrast the variety of Electoral School votes every state has with numerous traits of the states – how many individuals dwell there, what number of of its residents are eligible to vote and the way many individuals truly solid ballots in 2020.

My evaluation finds that voters in small states have extra Electoral School votes per capita than bigger, extra various states, utilizing a number of completely different measures – and subsequently extra energy to decide on a president than they might have in a nationwide well-liked election.

Ignoring smaller states?

In 2016, Republican Phil Bryant, who was then the governor of Mississippi, complained that states didn’t have equal energy to choose the president. He famous that bigger states, which he described as extra “liberal,” had extra electoral votes than smaller, “conservative” ones like his personal.

Bryant, who holds a grasp’s diploma in political science, reportedly mentioned in a 2016 radio interview: “The election is rigged… . Because it has been designed, as we have a look at the states the place the extra liberal voting populations could also be within the cities, in New York and California and a few of the different areas – all you need to do is win these significantly bigger states and you’ll neglect about flyover nation.”

Even way back to 1970, Republican Sen. Henry Bellmon of Oklahoma complained, “So long as a voter in California is a method by which a candidate for president might hope to win 40 electoral votes and when a voter within the state of New York is a method whereby a candidate can win 43 electoral votes, these votes are going to be extra essential to the candidate than the votes of residents in a state like Oklahoma the place the candidate can hope to realize solely eight electoral votes or, maybe underneath the brand new census, solely seven votes.”

But when there have been a nationwide well-liked vote as an alternative of the Electoral School, related criticisms may maintain true: Candidates would possibly nonetheless discover it environment friendly, when it comes to money and time, to focus their marketing campaign efforts on locations with bigger populations.

Shedding the favored vote, and nonetheless profitable?

The concept somebody may lose the favored vote and nonetheless win the presidency has its personal critics. In 2016, Lawrence Lessig, a Harvard regulation professor and creator of “Republic, Misplaced: Model 2.0” and a 2016 Democratic major presidential candidate, railed towards the concept that Trump may defeat Hillary Clinton that method.

“[T]he end result violated what has change into one of the essential rules governing our democracy  – one individual, one vote,” Lessig wrote. “In each instances, the votes of some weighed rather more closely than the votes of others. Right now, the vote of a citizen in Wyoming is 4 instances as highly effective because the vote of a citizen in Michigan. The vote of a citizen in Vermont is thrice as highly effective as a vote in Missouri. This denies Individuals the elemental worth of a consultant democracy — equal citizenship.”

The supply for Lessig’s actual figures is unclear, however his bigger level is correct. In each measure – primarily based on inhabitants, eligible voters and precise voters – voters in Wyoming, the nation’s least populous state, have essentially the most affect over the Electoral School. And in each measure, voters in one of many nation’s three most populous states – California, Texas and Florida – have the least Electoral School energy.

Learning the Electoral School

States are assigned electoral votes primarily based partly on their complete populations. Along with two electors for each state, equivalent to the 2 U.S. senators, they get one elector for every member of the U.S. Home of Representatives. The variety of Home seats a state will get is calculated each 10 years primarily based on how many individuals dwell there.

The seat allocation was most just lately calculated after the 2010 census, and will probably be calculated once more after the outcomes of the 2020 census are launched. In that dedication, voters in much less populous states get a bonus, as a result of no state can have fewer than three electoral votes, regardless of how few individuals dwell there. The identical is true for the District of Columbia, which can also be assured not less than three electoral votes.

Primarily based on the 2019 inhabitants estimates, Wyoming has three electoral votes representing 578,759 residents – or 5.18 electoral votes per million residents. In contrast, Texas has 1.31 electoral votes per million residents. Every Wyoming voter has roughly 4 instances extra affect over its state’s electoral voters than every Texas voter.

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When taking a look at how many individuals in every state are eligible to vote, Wyoming’s voters have 6.59 electoral votes per million eligible voters. That’s additionally about 4 instances as a lot affect as voters in Florida, who’ve 1.86 electoral votes per million eligible voters – a statistic that features individuals over age 18 however excludes noncitizens and, in lots of states, individuals who have been convicted of a felony.

However the quantity of affect any given voter has on the end result of the election is completely different from these measures: It will depend on how many individuals truly vote in every state.

Small-staters’ benefit

With regards to those that voted, voters in small states nonetheless have the benefit over their bigger counterparts. Within the 2020 presidential election, 278,503 Wyoming voters solid ballots that decided the allocation of three Electoral School votes. That’s 10.8 electoral votes per million voters. Florida, on the different finish of the spectrum, noticed 11,144,855 voters figuring out 29 electoral votes – giving every Florida voter one-fourth the ability of every Wyoming voter.

It’s not simply Wyoming voters who’ve disproportionate affect over the Electoral School. They’re joined by voters within the District of Columbia and 11 different states with fewer than 5 Electoral School votes. Voters in additional populous states, like North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York and Georgia, have a lot much less affect, together with these in California, Texas and New York.

A system like this existed in Georgia up till the center of the twentieth century. Referred to as the “unit county system,” it gave voters in flippantly populated counties extra affect over who was elected governor than voters in additional populous counties had. However in 1963, the U.S. Supreme Courtroom struck down that system, ruling that it violated the elemental precept of “one individual, one vote.”

Might the identical factor occur to the Electoral School?

LaGrange School undergraduate Tia Braxton contributed to the analysis.

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