Imagine living in a place where you’re allowed to vote, but your vote doesn’t count. Sound strange? For literally millions in the U.S., this would be reality but for one simple concept, electoral college.
That may sound impossible, but let me explain why it’s truly not.
It’s a reality that there’re a number of metropolitan areas in U.S., and that these areas contain a large percentage of the populace. Looking at the map at http://geographer-at-large.blogspot.com/2011/12/map-of-week-12-12-2011us-population.html makes it quite clear where these areas are. If you live in the Northeast of the U.S., in California or Texas, you’re living in the most populous places in the country. Throw in the Pacific Northwest, and you almost certainly have more than half the people nationwide.
Now take a moment to look at the county map on this page: https://www.citymetric.com/politics/austria-us-urban-vs-rural-new-divide-politics-2635, the one that shows election results in red and blue.
Notice anything interesting? How about that the majority of “blue votes” were recorded in the densest population centers in the country? There’re exceptions, but it largely holds true that the country votes “along party lines,” based on which areas have larger numbers of people.
As a rule, the less densely personed a given region, the more likely it is to vote Republican.
Here’s another interesting piece of data. Based on the second map presented, what percent of the landmass of the U.S. do you suppose had people in it voting Democrat? Okay, now how about those voting Republican?
Looking at the second page’s map, I would estimate somewhere between ten and twenty percent of the U.S. by area voted Democrat. If we’re charitable and argue for 20%, that still means 80% voted Republican.
Doing a comparison of popular vote figures, the Democrat garnered 48% of votes, while the Republican got just 46%, based on the data from that second website. Yet the Republican carried something very near to (if not in excess of) 80 percent of the country in terms of the amount of landmass covered.
Where one could make the argument that a majority of the people in the country were “disenfranchised” by the current method the country uses to elect a president, were it not done that way, the larger part of the country by area would instead have been disenfranchised.
Here’s the thing. We’re going to take a map from a third site. This is the map for the 2008 election in which Mr Obama was famously elected for the first time. That information is here: http://www.city-data.com/forum/elections/549854-2008-presidential-election-county-map.html.
Looking at this map may be startling. Why? Because by area, it’s still pretty obvious that the Republican “won.” By pure square mileage, the Republican candidate still commands almost certainly at least seventy percent of the country (and that’s being graceful).
Even so, because the Democratic candidate won the greater number of elector votes, he also won the election. Remember, that’s after losing in the majority of the country by area. So in 2008, it can be argued the majority of the country by size was technically disenfranchised.
You might be thinking, “So why do you support electoral college if that’s the case?”
The answer would be, “Because of what happened in the 2016 election.”
As strange as it may sound, the 2016 and the 2008 elections were not a repudiation of electoral college, but a validation of it. The fact that even though the majority of the country by square miles can vote Republican, yet the Democrat candidate can prevail would be disturbing if it were not possible for the Republican candidate to win via electoral college just eight years later.
The point, of course is, not only was it possible for the Republican to win the requisite number of electors in 2016, but he did.
There’s one more thing I’d frankly like to see more statistical data on, that’s the state “winner take all” policy.
You may not be aware of this, but the majority of U.S. states have rules in place such that, the presidential candidate who takes the bigger number of electors for the state, takes all electors, regardless that the “loser” for that state actually won regions of it.
If you want to talk about something I consider potentially unfair in the electoral college process, this would be the thing. Looking at a state map for the 2008 election (https://www.270towin.com/2008_Election) we see that the states are roughly divided, with the Republican carrying basically 22 states and the Democrat the remainder.
Looking at the 2016 election at the same site (https://www.270towin.com/2016_Election), it appears that the Republican carried roughly 29 or 30 states (frankly, I’m too tired to do an exact count, you can see it for yourself on that site).
This makes an interesting point about electoral college. It’s not purely by the state that a candidate wins. Each state has a specific number of electors. States with larger numbers of folks have more electors.
The result is, even though Mr Obama carried only half of the country by sheer area from a state perspective, he more or less trounced Mr McCain looking at electors. For Mr Trump to best Mrs Clinton with a less commanding win, required him to get roughly three fifths of the states, and definitely more than half the country come to area.
Saying for certain what this means about “winner take all” would take more research than I’m willing to do to this point. My bet is, were that policy taken out of force as a rule, you would rarely see a Democrat win the presidency, if ever.
I admit, That’s the way I would love to see things. I know there are a bunch of folks who would probably feel like they were regularly cheated viewing the results of the presidential election every four years.
At some point, perhaps I’ll do more of a deep dive into things to see if I find my suspicions confirmed. For the time being, I’ll leave that be.
In the end though, I hope you understand why it’s important for the electoral college to stay in place. If not, allow me to try to condense things. If you live in Arkansas or Idaho, even with electoral college, your vote barely counts, what little it hits the scoreboard now, would cease to be without it.
Thanks for reading and may your time be good.