POLITICS

# Electoral College math: Not all votes are equal

By AP Staff Writer | SEPTEMBER 29, 2012 AT 4:46 AM

WASHINGTON (AP) — When it comes to electing the president, not all votes are created equal. And chances are yours will count less than those of a select few.

For example, the vote of Dave Smith in Sheridan, Wyo., counts almost 3 1/2 times as much mathematically as those of his wife's aunts in northeastern Ohio.

Why? Electoral College math.

A statistical analysis of the state-by-state voting-eligible population by The Associated Press shows that Wyoming has 139,000 eligible voters — those 18 and over, U.S. citizens and non-felons — for every presidential elector chosen in the state. In Ohio, it's almost 476,000 per elector, and it's nearly 478,000 in neighboring Pennsylvania.

But there's mathematical weight and then there's the reality of political power in a system where the president is decided not by the national popular vote but by an 18th century political compromise: the Electoral College.

Smith figures his vote in solid Republican Wyoming really doesn't count that much because it's a sure Mitt Romney state. The same could be said for ballots cast in solid Democratic states like New York or Vermont. In Ohio, one of the biggest battleground states, Smith's relatives are bombarded with political ads. In Wyoming, Smith says, "the candidates don't care about my vote because we only see election commercials from out-of-state TV stations."

The nine battleground states where Romney and Barack Obama are spending a lot of time and money — Ohio, Florida, Virginia, Colorado, New Hampshire, Iowa, Nevada, North Carolina and Wisconsin — have 44.1 million people eligible to vote. That's only 20.7 percent of the nation's 212.6 million eligible voters. So nearly 4 of 5 eligible voters are pretty much being ignored by the two campaigns.

When you combine voter-to-elector comparisons and battleground state populations, there are clear winners and losers in the upcoming election.

More than half the nation's eligible voters live in states that are losers in both categories. Their states are not closely contested and have above-average ratios of voters to electors. This is true for people in 14 states with 51 percent of the nation's eligible voters: California, New York, Texas, Illinois, Michigan, Georgia, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Indiana, Tennessee, Missouri, Maryland, Louisiana and Kentucky. Their votes count the least.

The biggest winners in the system, those whose votes count the most, live in just four states: Colorado, New Hampshire, Iowa and Nevada. They have low voter-to-elector ratios and are in battleground states. Only 4 percent of the nation's eligible voters — 1 in 25 — live in those states.

It's all dictated by the U.S. Constitution, which set up the Electoral College. The number of electors each state gets depends on the size of its congressional delegation. Even the least populated states — like Wyoming — get a minimum of three, meaning more crowded states get less proportionally.

If the nation's Electoral College votes were apportioned in a strict one-person, one-vote manner, each state would get one elector for every 395,000 eligible voters. Some 156 million voters live in the 20 states that have a larger ratio than that average: That's 73 percent — nearly 3 out of 4.

And for most people, it's even more unrepresentative. About 58 percent of the nation's eligible voting population lives in states with voter-to-elector ratios three times as large as Wyoming's. In other words, Dave Smith's voting power is about equal to three of his wife's aunts and uncles in Ohio, and most people in the nation are on the aunt-and-uncle side of that unbalanced equation.

"It's a terrible system; it's the most undemocratic way of electing a chief executive in the world, " said Paul Finkelman, a law professor at Albany Law School who teaches this year at Duke University. "There's no other electoral system in the world where the person with the most votes doesn't win."

The statistical analysis uses voter eligibility figures for 2010 calculated by political science professor Michael McDonald at George Mason University. McDonald is a leader in the field of voter turnout.

Former Sen. Alan Simpson of Wyoming defends the Electoral College system for protecting small states in elections, which otherwise might be overrun by big city campaigning: "Once you get rid of the Electoral College, the election will be conducted in New York and San Francisco."

Sure it gives small states more power, but at what price? asks Douglas Amy, a political science professor at Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts: "This clearly violates that basic democratic principle of one person, one vote. Indeed, many constitutional scholars point out that this unfair arrangement would almost certainly be declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court on those grounds if it were not actually in the Constitution."

Article 2 of the Constitution says presidents are voted on by electors (it doesn't mention the word college) with each state having a number equal to its U.S. senators and representatives. While representatives are allocated among the states proportional by population, senators are not. Every state gets two. So Wyoming has 0.2 percent of the nation's voting-eligible population but almost 0.6 percent of the Electoral College. And since the number of electors is limited to 538, some states get less proportionately.

Adding to this, most states have an all-or-nothing approach to the Electoral College. A candidate can win a state by just a handful of votes but get all the electors. That happened in 2000, when George W. Bush, after much dispute, won Florida by 537 votes out of about 6 million and got all 27 electoral votes. He won the presidential election but lost the national popular vote that year.

That election led some states to sign a compact promising to give their electoral votes to the national popular vote winner. But that compact would go into effect only if and when states with the 270 majority of electoral votes signed on. So far nine states with 132 electoral votes have signed, all predominantly Democratic states.

Because of the 2000 election, conservatives and Republicans tend to feel that changing the Electoral College would hurt them, George Mason's McDonald said, and after their big victories in 2010, the popular vote compact movement stalled. But that analysis may not necessarily be true, he added. McDonald said before recent opinion polls started to break for Obama there seemed to be a possibility that he could win the electoral vote and lose the popular vote because of weak turnout — but still enough to win — in traditionally Democratic states like New York and California.

Former Stanford University computer scientist John Koza, who heads National Popular Vote, which is behind the electoral reform compact, said Democrat John Kerry would have won the Electoral College in 2004 while Republican Bush won the popular vote, if only 60,000 Bush votes in Ohio had changed to Kerry votes.

History shows that candidates have won the presidency but not the popular vote four times, and in each case it was the Democrat who got the most votes but lost the presidency: 1824, 1876, 1888 and 2000.

The Associated Press analysis suggests that in this year's election, the current system seems to benefit Romney. The AP re-apportioned electoral votes based on voting-eligible population and not congressional delegations, so that, for example, Wyoming and the District of Columbia would have only one elector instead of three, and California would have 58 instead of 55.

Based on polling, states strongly in the Romney camp have 191 electoral votes in the current system but would have only 178 if the electoral votes were allocated based on voting-eligible population. Based on similar polling, Obama would benefit by about five electoral votes if electors were apportioned by that population. The nine battleground states would gain even more sway, jumping from 110 electoral votes to 118.

That would compound the perceived problem of a shrinking number of battleground states being all that mattered in the election, leaving the overwhelming majority of states standing around as "spectator states," Koza said.

John McGinnis, a professor of constitutional law at Northwestern University, defends the current Electoral College, arguing that while the mathematics of electoral proportionate calculations is correct, the conclusion that it over-represents small states is not. Larger states still have more sway because they have more electoral votes, he said.

Further, the historical agreement to give each state two senators regardless of their population and to base electoral votes on congressional delegation rather than population "was an essential compromise" when framers were drafting the Constitution, McGinnis said. Without that compromise, there might not have been a Constitution or nation, he said.

But Finkelman said his reading of history is that the compromise wasn't about power between small and large states as much as it was about power of slave-holding states. He said James Madison wanted direct popular election of the president, but because African-American slaves wouldn't count, that would give more power to the North. So the framers came up with a compromise to count each slave as three-fifths of a person for representation in Congress and presidential elections, he said.

Electoral College supporter McGinnis said the emphasis on battleground states is actually good because they are representative of the country. But he acknowledges as an Illinois resident, "I realize when I vote here it's completely irrelevant."

___

Seth Borenstein can be followed at http://twitter.com/borenbears

## More from washingtonexaminer.com

• ### 10 takeaways from Darrell Issa's latest Obamacare oversight hearing

By SUSAN CRABTREE | 12/12/13 03:25 PM

Rep. Darrell Issa's House Oversight and Government Reform Committee held another hearing on the impact of Obamacare, this time scrutinizing reports that the health care law is driving up insurance costs and leading to...

• ### Sen. Dick Durbin to join fast in support of immigration reform

By SEAN LENGELL | 12/12/13 03:03 PM

The No. 2 Senate Democrat says he will join a fast in support of activists pushing for changes in the nation's immigration laws. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin of Illinois said Thursday that after meeting with members...

• ### Nancy Pelosi: Budget deal doesn't guarantee greater bipartisanship on Capitol Hill

By SEAN LENGELL | 12/12/13 02:53 PM

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi warned against assuming the budget compromise will usher in a new era of bipartisanship on Capitol Hill, saying that a lot more work must be done to significantly thaw the icy...

• ### White House to Congress: 'Act as soon as possible' on jobless benefits

By MEGHASHYAM MALI | 12/12/13 02:07 PM

The White House on Thursday said it expected Congress to quickly extend unemployment insurance early next year if lawmakers leave Washington before the deadline for expiring jobless benefits. "Unfortunately, the House...

• ### Harry Reid says Senate will not extend farm law

By ASSOCIATED PRESS | 12/12/13 09:32 AM

Government dairy subsidies that affect the cost of a gallon of milk are set to expire at the end of the year as farm-state lawmakers said Tuesday that they do not expect to have a new farm bill — or an extension of...

• ### Paul Ryan: Budget agreement 'three yards and a cloud of dust'

By CHARLIE SPIERING | 12/12/13 09:06 AM

Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., continued to defend the House Budget agreement with Democrats on Wednesday night during an appearance on Fox News with conservative host Sean Hannity.

• ### Fired US Sen. Lamar Alexander staffer expected in court

By ASSOCIATED PRESS | 12/12/13 08:56 AM

The fired chief of staff for U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander was expected Thursday in federal court after the aide's arrest on probable cause for possession and distribution of child pornography, authorities said. Ryan...

• ### Budget deal offers stability to Pentagon spending

By ASSOCIATED PRESS | 12/12/13 08:55 AM

Working-age military retirees would see fewer dollars in their federal pensions and the Pentagon would get some long-sought stability in spending under Congress' budget deal.

• ### Claire McCaskill scares two agency heads, suggests they consolidate

By LUKE ROSIAK | 12/12/13 05:15 AM

A Senate subcommittee is exploring consolidating some of the many tiny federal entities that are littered across the bureaucracy, and first on its list of targets are international programs, including the U.S. Trade and...

• ### If you like your freedom, you can keep it?

By MELANIE STURM | 12/11/13 03:47 PM

In the waiting room of Memorial Sloan-Kettering’s radiation treatment center, I discovered that in the race of life, those running to stay on the track are among the most determined, hopeful, and courageous. They’re...

• ### Steny Hoyer: Budget deal likely will need Democratic support to pass House

By SEAN LENGELL | 12/11/13 07:31 PM

The House's No. 2 Democrat says he's not sure if the \$2 trillion bipartisan budget deal reached Tuesday night has enough Democratic support to pass the chamber. House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer said it's his...

• ### Darrell Issa warns Kathleen Sebelius about criminal obstruction of Congress on healthcare.gov

By MICHAL CONGER | 12/11/13 07:30 PM

House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Rep. Darrell Issa warned Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius Wednesday that obstructing a congressional investigation is a criminal offense....

• ### Lamar Alexander suspends top staffer amid allegations

By SEAN HIGGINS | 12/11/13 05:49 PM

Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., announced he has suspended his chief of staff, Ryan Loskarn, after learning that the staffer's home was being searched by law enforcement officials "regarding allegations involving child...

• ### Tea Party conservatives who provoked shutdown are sidelined in new budget deal

By SUSAN FERRECHIO | 12/11/13 04:49 PM

Typically vocal Republican conservatives don't like the bipartisan budget deal Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., and Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., announced yesterday, but they seem resigned to the likelihood that it will pass the...

• ### AFL-CIO slams Paul Ryan/Patty Murray deal

By SEAN HIGGINS | 12/11/13 04:30 PM

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka called the proposed budget deal by Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., woefully inadequate, but did not specifically call on lawmakers to flat-out reject the bill. In...

• ### Senate GOP will delay vote on Obama judicial nominee until wee hours

By DAVID M. DRUCKER | 12/11/13 03:03 PM

Senate Republicans are prepared to force a middle-of-the-night vote on one of President Obama's judicial nominees in retaliation for Democrats invoking the so-called nuclear option to change Senate rules on presidential...

• ### Kathleen Sebelius admits Obamacare sign-ups still 3 million short of goal

By SUSAN CRABTREE | 12/11/13 02:09 PM

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said enrollments on healthcare.gov are surging but confirmed that the administration is still millions short of its target of signing up 3.3 million Americans by the...

• ### Deficit hawk pans newly-minted budget deal on Hill

By ASSOCIATED PRESS | 12/11/13 11:02 AM

A leading congressional deficit hawk says a bipartisan budget agreement hammered out on Capitol Hill is mostly a patch-work approach that fails to address wasteful spending that is contributing to a ballooning federal...

• ### Congressional subcommittee weighs online gambling

By ASSOCIATED PRESS | 12/11/13 10:30 AM

LAS VEGAS — Organizations and advocates on all sides of the online gambling debate are cheering a Congressional hearing on the state of online gambling.

• ### Mark Pryor asks that Tom Cotton seek to extend session

By ASSOCIATED PRESS | 12/11/13 10:13 AM

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Democratic Sen. Mark Pryor wants his Republican rival in next year's election to ask that the House work next week on a farm bill. Pryor, the only Democrat in Arkansas' congressional delegation, is...

• ### Congress poised to punt on long-term farm bill

By SEAN LENGELL | 12/10/13 08:08 PM

House and Senate negotiators are poised to punt work on a long-term farm bill to the new year, as House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas submitted legislation Tuesday to extend current crop subsides for one...

• ### Budget deal nears as House prepares to leave town Friday

By DAVID M. DRUCKER | 12/10/13 04:52 PM

Bipartisan negotiators were closing in on budget deal Tuesday, although the talks remain delicate and sources familiar with the haggling were hesitant to predict that an agreement would be reached before Congress adjourns...

• ### John Kerry to Congress: No new Iranian sanctions now, 'six months will fly by'

By TIM MAK | 12/10/13 04:25 PM

Secretary of State John Kerry appealed to skeptical members of Congress on Tuesday to hold off on imposing new economic sanctions on Iran for at least six months while the Obama administration continues nuclear...

• ### Sen. John Cornyn to face Republican primary challenge -- but not of the caliber he feared

By REBECCA BERG | 12/10/13 02:48 PM

Republican Sen. John Cornyn, of Texas, has been bracing for a primary challenge in 2014. His re-election campaign built up a war chest of nearly \$7 million. He spearheaded a "Keep Texas Red" campaign to promote...

• ### Budget deal hinges on fee increases that some say are tax hikes in disguise

By SUSAN FERRECHIO, DAVID M. DRUCKER | 12/10/13 07:36 AM

A proposal to raise various government fees to offset sequester-driven budget cuts is at the heart of a pending Congressional budget deal, though some are warning lawmakers that higher fees is another way of saying tax...

• ### Martin Dempsey presses Congress to act on defense bill

By ASSOCIATED PRESS | 12/10/13 12:21 AM

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is warning Congress that failure to act on a defense policy bill before year's end would create more uncertainty for the military and undercut the nation's commanders. Ramping...

• ### Lawmakers reach deal on Pentagon policy bill, but must scramble to pass it

By TIM MAK | 12/09/13 06:41 PM

Republicans and Democrats working out the Pentagon's annual policy bill said Monday that they had reached an agreement on a stripped-down version of the bill over the Thanksgiving recess and presented it to their...

• ### House Republican Chairman proposes bill to ban in-flight cellphone calls

By SUSAN FERRECHIO | 12/09/13 03:48 PM

House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster, R-Pa., on Monday introduced the "Prohibiting In-Flight Voice Communications and Mobile Wireless Devices Act," which would outlaw most cellphone...

• ### Poll: 68 percent skeptical lawmakers will strike budget deal

| 12/09/13 01:51 PM

(thehill.com) Despite signs lawmakers could finalize a deal this week, most Americans are bracing for another shutdown.

• ### Congress, staff get more time to enroll in Obamacare because of glitches

By DAVID M. DRUCKER | 12/09/13 01:01 PM

Lawmakers and staff who had trouble buying insurance because of technical glitches in their local exchange were told late Friday to contact the payroll office by the close of business Monday.

• ### Senate Dems push Obama nominees, GOP bides time

By ASSOCIATED PRESS | 12/09/13 01:00 PM

Fresh from shackling the traditional blocking ability of the Senate's minority party, Democrats are ready to muscle through President Obama's nominees for pivotal judgeships and other top jobs. Despite last month's...

• ### Defend the Constitution, say 'no' to fast-track authority for Obama

By CATHIE ADAMS AND JO ANN FLEMING | 12/09/13 12:00 PM

President Obama wants Congress to surrender its constitutional authority and grant him “fast-track” trade promotion authority. Republican representatives Steve Stockman and Louie Gohmert of Texas, and more 170 other...

• ### Obama taps former top aide to work on health law

By ASSOCIATED PRESS | 12/09/13 09:44 AM

President Obama is bringing a former top aide with deep ties to Congress back to the White House to help get his health care overhaul back on track after a bungled rollout. Officials say Phil Schiliro, who as Obama's...

• ### The week ahead in economics: Budget deadline, phones on flights, and Bitcoin

By JOSEPH LAWLER | 12/09/13 09:08 AM

Friday is the deadline for the budget conference committee mandated by the debt ceiling deal to reach an agreement. The top negotiators, Democratic Sen. Patty Murray of Washington and Republican House Budget Committee...

• ### Congress ready to extend ban on plastic firearms

By ASSOCIATED PRESS | 12/09/13 06:00 AM

A Senate vote to renew an expiring ban on plastic firearms capable of evading metal detectors and X-ray machines is shaping up as a bittersweet moment for gun control supporters, days before the anniversary of the deadly...

• ### Week ahead in Congress: House in final push to seal budget agreement this week

By SUSAN FERRECHIO, DAVID M. DRUCKER | 12/09/13 05:52 AM

The House on Monday kicked off its last work week of the year with lawmakers still needing to approve a budget bill to keep the government running after Jan. 15 while softening budget cuts that are squeezing domestic and...

• ### If you like your freedom, you can keep it?

By MELANIE STURM | 12/08/13 11:52 AM

In the waiting room of Memorial Sloan-Kettering’s radiation treatment center, I discovered that in the race of life, those running to stay on the track are among the most determined, hopeful, and courageous. They’re...

• ### Obama presses Congress to extend jobless benefits

By MEGHASHYAM MALI | 12/07/13 11:43 AM

President Obama on Saturday urged lawmakers to extend unemployment benefits set to expire by year’s end, saying that failing to do so would deal a blow to the economy and millions of struggling families. “For many...

• ### White House urges Congress to pass unemployment benefits

By SUSAN CRABTREE | 12/06/13 04:01 PM

The White House stressed the importance of passing a new round of unemployment insurance before Congress leaves on its holiday break next week but did not insist that it be part of any budget deal lawmakers on Capitol...

• ### Milk prices poised to double unless Congress acts on farm bill

By SEAN LENGELL | 12/06/13 02:01 PM

As if Congress hasn't failed enough this year to ingratiate itself with the public, the price of a gallon of milk is at risk of doubling in early 2014 if lawmakers don't pass a long-delayed farm bill by year's end. The...

• ### House asks for help as faulty DC website delays Obamacare enrollment for members, staff

By DAVID M. DRUCKER | 12/06/13 12:15 PM

House lawmakers and staff are having significant problems enrolling in Obamacare and may miss their sign-up deadline on Monday, according to a House official who asked the Obama administration to help deal with the...

• ### Political Buzz: Both parties fear another government shutdown

By WASHINGTON EXAMINER STAFF REPORTS | 12/06/13 12:11 PM

Both Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill want to avoid a second government shutdown that could haunt them in the 2014 midterm elections, and they are racing to reach a budget deal that would avoid it before Congress...

• ### Lawmakers look to end wind energy credits

By ZACK COLMAN | 12/06/13 11:54 AM

As lawmakers ramp up efforts to kill a key wind energy incentive that expires at the end of the year, the wind industry is concentrating on winning concessions in a potential federal tax-code overhaul.

• ### Congress fails to pass major agenda items or budget in 'God-awful' session

By SEAN LENGELL | 12/06/13 11:53 AM

There has been no shortage of energy on Capitol Hill this year, as extreme partisanship has fueled bitter and protracted battles that have kept lawmakers constantly in the news. But despite the noise, Congress has failed...

• ### Obama's congressional allies defy him on Iran sanctions

By SUSAN FERRECHIO | 12/06/13 11:45 AM

President Obama's freshly cut nuclear deal with Iran faces new challenges in the Senate, where lawmakers, including fellow Democrats, are intent on imposing tougher economic sanctions on Iran despite warnings that they...

• ### Ambivalent about Hillary, liberals cheer Elizabeth Warren

By TIM MAK | 12/06/13 11:43 AM

Elizabeth Warren has said repeatedly that she isn't running for president in 2016. But fellow Democrats apparently don't hear her. Progressives hoping to pull the Democratic Party further to the left still see Warren as a...

• ### Budget deal? Big obstacles, New Year's deadline

By ASSOCIATED PRESS | 12/06/13 09:32 AM

With hopes of a "grand bargain" long gone, congressional negotiators now are seeking a more modest deal before year-end to ease the automatic spending cuts that are squeezing both the Pentagon and domestic federal...

• ### Congress should say no to Obama's Christmas tree tax

By MARK TAPSCOTT | 12/06/13 09:31 AM

Whether people say "Merry Christmas" or "Happy Holidays," one thing they shouldn't have to say about the favorite season of kids everywhere is "Christmas tree tax." But this perennial stinker of an idea from...

• ### Milk prices could rise if farm bill looms

By ASSOCIATED PRESS | 12/06/13 08:50 AM

A New Year's deadline that could send the price of milk skyward looms over congressional negotiators as they try to reach agreement on a five-year farm bill. They've been tripped up by differences over the nation's food...

• ### VIDEO: Democrats call on Obama to expand deferred action program

By LISA RUHL | 12/05/13 05:38 PM

Democratic members of Congress urged President Obama to take action on immigration reform by sending him a letter Thursday asking to expand the deferred action program.

## Top 5 Most Read Stories

• ### Oregon signs up just 44 people for Obamacare despite spending \$300 million

By Philip Klein | 12/11/13

• ### Mike Huckabee quits radio show, sets sights on 2016 election

By Paul Bedard | 12/12/13

• ### Obama's popularity slide has made his coalition dangerously shallower

By David Freddoso | 12/12/13

• ### Obamacare is Obama's failure by choice, not fate

By Noemie Emery | 12/11/13

• ### HHS: More than 258,000 enrolled in Obamacare in November

By Meghashyam Mali | 12/11/13

## From the Weekly Standard

• ### For the Sake of Repeal, Support the Deal

Let me add a word to my comments from Tuesday night supporting the budget deal.

• ### The Battle of 2014

Regularly scheduled elections are a hallmark of the American political system. In 18th-century Britain, the monarch could call new elections on a whim, and our Founders saw in that arrangement a...

• ### Doing the Wrong Thing

After a decade-long run of bad weather that included Hurricanes Katrina, Sandy, and Ike, and a host of other river valley and storm-surge floods, the 45-year-old National Flood Insurance Program...