The Electoral College and Fairness

US MapI hear a lot of complaints about the electoral college, and from both sides of the debate.

Some people believe it over-represents the less populated states since they get more electoral college votes per resident. For example, California gets 55 electoral college votes with a population of 36,961,664 people, whereas Wyoming gets three electoral college votes for only 544,270 people. That means that California gets an elector for every 672,030 people, but Wyoming gets one for every 181,243. Essentially, each Wyoming resident’s vote counts 3.71 times as much as a Californian’s when it comes time to vote in the Electoral College.

Some people believe that it allows a small minority of highly populated states to suppress the wishes of the majority of states, just because those states represent a large fraction of the population. For example, California has 11.95% of the population of the entire United States (and that’s not counting illegal immigrants at all) and so has a large say in the presidential elections. Wyoming has only 0.17% of the population of the United States, and has much less say.

Both sides are looking at it totally wrong, though, because the number of electors should not be based on population numbers at all. Basing the vote on the current populations is looking at the past. What we need to do is look to the future. What is the possible future importance of the state? That is best determined by land area. If you apportion electors by area, and keep the total number at 535, then the electoral vote count goes as follows:

  • 94: Alaska
  • 38: Texas
  • 23: California
  • 21: Montana
  • 17: New Mexico
  • 16: Arizona, Nevada
  • 15: Colorado
  • 14: Oregon, Wyoming, Michigan
  • 12: Minnesota, Utah, Idaho, Kansas
  • 11: Nebraska, South Dakota
  • 10: Washington, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Missouri
  • 9: Florida, Wisconsin
  • 8: Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, New York, North Carolina
  • 7: Arkansas, Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi
  • 6: Pennsylvania, Ohio, Virginia, Tennessee, Kentucky
  • 5: Indiana, Maine, South Carolina
  • 3: West Virginia
  • 2: Maryland, Hawaii
  • 1: Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Connecticut
  • 0: Delaware, Rhode Island, District of Columbia (Sorry, Delaware and Rhode Island. Maybe you can ask DC for pointers.)

I believe the advantages of this plan are obvious. It removes both the unfair advantages inherent in the current system: being a highly populated state, and being a sparsely populated state. The land areas may need updating from time to time if there’s a change in sea levels or if Alaska melts (as part of the natural cycle of temperatures), but that’s a lot easier and cheaper than taking the Census. All we’d have to do is look in the latest atlas.

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Comments
2 Responses to “The Electoral College and Fairness”
  1. toto says:

    fyi

    The National Popular Vote bill would guarantee the Presidency to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states (and DC).

    Every vote, everywhere, would be politically relevant and equal in presidential elections. Candidates would need to care about voters across the nation, not just undecided voters in a handful of swing states.

    The bill would take effect only when enacted, in identical form, by states possessing a majority of the electoral votes–that is, enough electoral votes to elect a President (270 of 538). When the bill comes into effect, all the electoral votes from those states would be awarded to the presidential candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states (and DC).

    The bill uses the power given to each state by the Founding Fathers in the Constitution to change how they award their electoral votes for president. Historically, virtually all of the major changes in the method of electing the President (for example, ending the requirement that only men who owned substantial property could vote) have come about without federal constitutional amendments, by state legislative action.

    The bill is currently endorsed by over 1,707 state legislators (in 48 states) who have sponsored and/or cast recorded votes in favor of the bill.

    In Gallup polls since 1944, only about 20% of the public has supported the current system of awarding all of a state’s electoral votes to the presidential candidate who receives the most votes in each separate state (with about 70% opposed and about 10% undecided). The recent Washington Post, Kaiser Family Foundation, and Harvard University poll shows 72% support for direct nationwide election of the President. Support for a national popular vote is strong in virtually every state, partisan, and demographic group surveyed in recent polls in closely divided battleground states: Colorado– 68%, Iowa –75%, Michigan– 73%, Missouri– 70%, New Hampshire– 69%, Nevada– 72%, New Mexico– 76%, North Carolina– 74%, Ohio– 70%, Pennsylvania — 78%, Virginia — 74%, and Wisconsin — 71%; in smaller states (3 to 5 electoral votes): Alaska — 70%, DC — 76%, Delaware –75%, Maine — 77%, Nebraska — 74%, New Hampshire –69%, Nevada — 72%, New Mexico — 76%, Rhode Island — 74%, and Vermont — 75%; in Southern and border states: Arkansas –80%, Kentucky — 80%, Mississippi –77%, Missouri — 70%, North Carolina — 74%, and Virginia — 74%; and in other states polled: California — 70%, Connecticut — 74% , Massachusetts — 73%, Minnesota — 75%, New York — 79%, Washington — 77%, and West Virginia- 81%.

    The National Popular Vote bill has passed 29 state legislative chambers, in 19 small, medium-small, medium, and large states, including one house in Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Michigan, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, and Oregon, and both houses in California, Colorado, Hawaii, Illinois, New Jersey, Maryland, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington. The bill has been enacted by Hawaii, Illinois, New Jersey, Maryland, and Washington. These five states possess 61 electoral votes — 23% of the 270 necessary to bring the law into effect.

    See http://www.NationalPopularVote.com

  2. Dustin says:

    You’re right. Never mind the fact that the Constitution requires a Census. And if you are in favor of amending the Constitution to more adequately represent our current society and its needs (which can and should be done), abolishing the Electoral College, allowing for direct elections, and adopting a proportional representation system would be a better use of time and energy.

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