Considering the importance of the electoral college system in American politics and elections, it is remarkable that not everyone – far from everyone – understands it.
When US voters elect a president, they choose a list of voters in each state. The victorious board gives its votes to the electoral college to elect the president. The electoral college consists of 538 voters from all states and the District of Columbia. The winning candidate requires a majority of 270 or more. The states receive the same number of voters as they have members of Congress – one for each senator and member of the House of Representatives – that is, at least three. States with a larger population have more votes, but the system of electoral colleges does not represent every voter equally.
For example, if the electoral votes were divided according to population, each vote would represent about 607,000 people. But under the current system, one vote in Wyoming represents about 193,000 people, while in California it represents more than 700,000 people. In other words, Wyoming accounts for 0.18% of the nation’s population and still has 0.56% of the electoral votes – more than three times as many as its population would justify.
Stacker has compiled the 2020 electoral college data from the National Archives Distribution of Electoral Votes and the 2019 population data from the U.S. Census Bureau ACS Demographic and Housing Estimates to determine which state voters have a greater electoral college advantage. This is determined by first calculating the percentage of current voters in the state out of all 538 votes. Stacker then looked at the total population of the state and the total eligible voter population – 18+ and one citizen – and calculated the percentage of each population in the total US population or in the US eligible voter population. Finally, this proportion was calculated from the 538 votes cast and the gap between the actual votes and the population-adjusted votes was shown.
The system of electoral colleges was created at the American Constitutional Congress in Philadelphia in 1787. According to historians and scholars, it was a compromise between the election of the president by Congress or the voters. The founding fathers believed that voters would not be well informed, but if Congress were to elect the chief of executive power, this would violate the separation of powers of the government. Some also argue that the government should protect the interests of states where slavery is practiced and which have fewer voters than northern states.
More than 200 years later, the system is still controversially discussed and criticized.
Opponents say it lures presidential candidates into a few contested states and does not represent the will of the people. Both George W. Bush and Donald Trump won the presidency through the electoral college without winning the popular vote. Some Democrats also say that it favors rural Republican states.
Defenders say that without them, presidential candidates would focus on attracting voters in populous states like New York, California and Texas, skipping almost all small and rural states.
Some critics want to move to a referendum and eliminate the middleman altogether. Another possibility is the national referendum, in which a state’s voters cast their votes in the electoral college for the winner of the national referendum. The idea has the support of 15 states and the District of Columbia, but needs states that have 270 votes to proceed.
How the voters can vote was a question that was answered by the U.S. Supreme Court earlier this year. Most states have so-called loyalty laws that require voters to vote on the electoral college for the candidate they have pledged to support. The Supreme Court ruled this year that such laws are constitutional.
After the November 3 election, the number of votes will be redistributed on the basis of the results of the 2020 census, which will be used to calculate how many seats each state will receive in the House of Representatives. The impact of the states on the electoral college will therefore be different the next time the nation’s voters elect their federal legislators and president.
The following list is based on the gap between the current votes on the electoral college and the votes of voters in relation to the population