Democrats Getting A Boost From An Unlikely Ally, The Electoral College
The Electoral College has been a punching bag for Democrats for years, but the ancient political compromise directly responsible for the losses of Al Gore and Hillary Clinton may actually give the Democrats a boost in November. Electors are redistributed every decade with the census, and there are two ways that the Electoral College diverts an election from the popular vote:
- It doesn’t matter if a state’s candidate gets 95% or 51% of the vote, the winner only claims that state’s fixed number of electors.
- Because of the elector formula, states differ wildly in their ratios of electoral votes to population, making some voters much more powerful than others. For example, in 2016, Wyoming cast an electoral vote for each 195,000 residents, and California cast an electoral vote for each 714,000 residents, so a Wyoming voter is roughly 4x more powerful than a California voter.
In 2010, when the last census was taken, electoral votes were redistributed such that Democrat-leaning states received 1 electoral vote for each 475,000 residents, and Republican-leaning states received 1 electoral vote for each 468,000 residents. This is a significant margin of advantage, but Barack Obama beat the odds and won reelection anyway in 2012.
I expected to see a similarly wide electoral gap in 2016, but I didn’t. Populations had changed, and Democrat-leaning states received 1 electoral vote for each 491,000 residents, but so did those leaning Republican. Wyoming voters were the most powerful, but Texas voters were the least powerful.
An estimate of current state populations using census and trend data is available on Worldometers, and the expected demographic adjustment gives Democrats an unexpected boost. Large blue states like New York and Illinois haven’t even seen a 1% increase in population since 2010, but big red states like Utah, Texas, Arizona, Georgia, and the Carolinas have seen double-digit growth in their populations. It is unclear whether Democrats have been physically moving into Republican-leaning states, but it might not be a coincidence that typically red states like Texas are now in play for the Dems.
Current estimates suggest that in November, Democratic-leaning states will cast 1 electoral vote for each 498,000 residents, and Republican-leaning states will cast a vote for each 504,000 residents. If Democrats are more populous in the U.S. than Republicans, which seems to be the case, a shifting of population should be a net positive for Democrats, who will need every last advantage they can scrounge if they’re going to pull this off.
My data here.
State political leanings here.
Census data here.
Worldometers estimates here.