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The Electoral College is a hotly debated institution, as well it should be. Twice in the last 5 elections, the candidate who won the popular vote — who achieved a plurality in total votes, fair and square — lost the election because they didn’t secure enough electoral votes. This only happened 3 times prior, all in the 1800s.
To many, it seems unjust for a candidate to concede the presidency despite earning the support of most voters. Even President-elect Donald Trump, in a tweet in 2012, called the Electoral College a “disaster for a democracy” — of course, he changed his mind once it won him the 2016 election despite losing by millions in the popular vote.
As strange an event as it may be, this can easily happen if one candidate wins disproportionately in some or many states, while losing only by a small margin in others. That is exactly what happened to Hillary Clinton in this 2016 presidential election.
This possibility has for a while now been common knowledge, especially since the highly contentious 2000 presidential election. Far less considered, however, is the fact that, depending on where you live, your vote translates into more or less electoral votes.
Yes, you read that correctly. As ridiculous as that may seem on the surface, electoral votes per state are not weighted the same. The ratio at which a state is awarded electoral votes per capita is inversely proportional to its population — meaning that less populated states receive a greater ratio of electoral votes per capita.
Why that is, I do not know. I hope to look into it more. But I don’t think I’m going to like the answer, regardless of what it is. Is this a democracy, or a weighted democracy?
It appears to be an unfairly weighted democracy, and I can’t imagine any justification for that. Even in the unlikely event I’m convinced a weighted democracy is a good idea, I will never be convinced that the American people have not been hoodwinked. I know the old dictate, “Ignorance of the law is not an excuse”, but I believe that’s a narrow-minded doctrine. The complexity of the modern world necessitates a deeper commitment on the part of government and media to inform the general public of pressing and relevant matters.
The weighted nature of my vote seems to me to be a pressing and relevant concern when all my life I’ve been told my vote counts. Now, through my own investigation, I have discovered that, indeed, my vote counts — it just counts a lot less than I’ve always been told, that being “equally.” I imagine this is a fact that most American voters would like to know. And once they do, I don’t think they’ll stand for such an institution.
I can imagine the weighted nature of votes for Democrats living in blue states is particularly frustrating given the fact that the majority of our nation’s least populated states consistently go red. Put another way — the electoral equivalent of a Republican’s vote in a sparsely populated state is worth significantly more than a Democrat’s vote in a highly populated state.
This must be especially infuriating given that 2 of the last 5 presidential elections were won by Republicans who lost the popular vote.
Regardless of your political leaning, this has got to ruffle your feathers. In Trump’s own words, this is potentially a “disaster for a democracy.”
Check out these two charts I pulled together to see for yourself.
- Population Per 1 Electoral Vote by U.S. State (in 1000s): https://infogr.am/21fe7afd-d0dd-4bdf-8179-1a53e666de16. This chart shows, in ascending order by U.S. state, how many residents (in 1000s) translate into 1 electoral vote. You’ll see Wyoming at the bottom with roughly 195,000 people translating to 1 electoral vote, while California and Texas get 1 electoral vote per 706,000 and 709,000 residents, respectively.
- Electoral Votes Per Capita (EVPC) Ratio to Texas EVPC by U.S. State: https://infogr.am/025d4a59-764d-49c7-84a3-d3e553856422. This chart shows, in ascending order by U.S. state, the relative weights per capita as they translate into electoral votes as compared to Texas (the lowest EVPC). Wyoming receives 3.6 times as many EVPC as Texas.