Friday, November 7, 2008

Who Benefits from the Electoral College?

Is the Presidential election fair?

In the Electoral College, there are two distortions to the “one-person, one-vote” principle.

The best known is that small states still get 3 votes (one for each congressman and senator).

Less known but also significant is that voter registration varies significantly. The population size of New Jersey is roughly the same as that in North Carolina, but in New Jersey, a lot fewer people can vote. So each voter there has proportionally less weight.

The chart below shows in increasing order the states that benefit most from the Electoral College system, with Florida getting the worst deal and Wyoming getting the best.

Conservatives often reject calls to eliminate the Electoral College with the reasoning that it would increase the importance of California and New York. It would, but not nearly as much as for Texas, North Carolina, and Georgia.

State E.C. votes voters for 1 E.C. vote (‘000’s)

Florida                     27                   480

Pennsylvania            21                   456

Texas                      34                   452

North Carolina          15                   445

Michigan                  17                   438

Georgia                   15                    437

Ohio                         20                   434

Virginia                     13                    433

Illinois                      28                    429

New York                  31                   428

Tennessee                11                    426

Washington              11                   425

Wisconsin                10                    420

Arizona                   10                    419

California                 55                    410

Alaska                      3                    180

North Dakota             3                   166

Vermont                   3                    166

D.C.                       3                    148

Wyoming                 3                   134

This means that voters in Florida should be most upset about the Electoral College, as they have the least voice per-voter. While Californian's shouldn't be particularly happy, either, there are fifteen other states ahead of them in line to complain.

It also means that Democrats and Republicans shouldn't see elimination of the Electoral College as a partisan issue. Affected states cover a broad geographic and political range, so that enacting direct elections by popular vote wouldn't favor any candidate... except the one best liked by the voters.

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