I have just run the numbers, and it is true – the US Electoral College is one of the worst Gerrymanders imaginable.
Five times now, the winner of the total popular vote in the US ended up losing the election (1824, 1876, 1888, 2000, and 2016). Clinton is now out-polling Trump by quite a bit (61.7 million to 60.4 million), but Trump is unfortunately probably going to win the presidency.
Just how perverse is the Electoral College? Beyond your wildest dreams.
I have just calculated that one party could WIN the presidency with only 31% of the total popular vote, while their opponents could LOSE the presidential election with 69% of the popular vote.
I am neither kidding nor exaggerating.
It comes from the fact that small states and voting territories like WY, DC, VT, ND, AK are wildly over-represented in the Electoral College. In Wyoming, each Elector represents a total population of about 177,000 people. In DC, each one represents 197,000 people. In Vermont, it’s 207,000 people per Elector.
But in large states like TX, FL, and CA, the population is grossly under-represented in the EC. In Texas, there are about 715,000 people per Elector – over FOUR TIMES as many as in Wyoming. In Florida, there are 679,000 people per Elector, and in California there are about 668,000 people per Elector.
The difference mostly comes from the fact that each state has two Senators, regardless of population.
So, if one party is able to win a whole bunch of smaller-population states with 51% of the vote in each one, and the other one wins the rest of the relatively-few larger-population states with a lopsided 90% of the vote in each one, it is possible for the first party to get to 285 electoral votes by only getting 37 million votes, while the opposition could get 83 million votes but lose the election because they only got 253 electoral college votes.
In a country with about 330 million people, the winners could get by with the votes of only TWELVE PERCENT of the population!!!
That is just plain perverse: Party A gets outvoted by a TWO-TO-ONE margin and still wins the presidency!?!?!?
It is time that we got rid of the electoral college, just like we got rid of buggy whips, blacksmiths on every corner, candlestick makers, and white powdered wigs. And slavery.
For the sake of this completely lopsided hypothetical election, I am assuming that the losing side got 90% of the vote in the following states: PA, WA, VA, IL, NC, NY, GA, AZ, CA, FL, and TX. That would give them a grand total of 253 electoral college votes – not enough – but a popular vote of over 83 million people. The winning side would win all of the other states by 51% to 49% margins, giving them 285 electoral votes but less than 37 million actual votes.
- For the sake of simplicity, I am treating all of Nebraska and all of Maine as single states.
- Don’t think that 90% votes are impossible. Here in Washington DC, Trump apparently got only about FOUR percent of the vote. Not 14%. Not 40%. But four per cent.
- I am using the proportion of the population in each state that voted either Democrat or Republican in this last election as the baseline.
- Write me a note (in comments) if you want to see the entire spreadsheet and I can post it on Dropbox.
- The idea for this column isn’t original, but the calculations are my own, and the numbers are based on this source and this one. I don’t recall what source I got the idea from, unfortunately, so I can’t give them credit. If you know who came up with this idea, please let me know.