Monday, June 24, 2013

How much is your vote worth in electing a president?

Source: Yaman Salahi

The electoral college was created in the Constitution as a compromise between the large and small original states. In 1788 there were 22 electors corresponding to the 11 states in the Union and 59 corresponding to the representatives allocated on the basis of population.  Today there are 100 corresponding to the 50 states and 438 based on population. Thus the relative importance of the population based electoral votes had decreased.

In the figure above it is clear that voters in some states have much more influence in the election of a president than do others. California and Texas, having been taken from Mexico, now have very large populations and thus little representation per person in the election of the president.

Alaska and Hawaii, the last two states admitted to the Union in a compromise, have relatively small populations. Washington DC voters (surprisingly) carry a lot of weight even though there are no senators representing the District. Some of the original small states (Vermont, Rhode Island, Delaware and Maine) still have disproportionate weight in the presidential elections, as does West Virginia which became a state by seceding from Virginia during the Civil War in order to stay with the Union.

Wyoming, North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana and Nebraska became states in "Golden Age" when Republican dominated administration and Congress apparently sought to pack the electoral college with new Republican electors by giving statehood to new states with small populations.

The end result of the process is that the big cities in the United States, which tend to be more liberal, have relatively less influence in the election of the president than their populations would justify, and the small, mostly rural states, which tend to be more conservative, have relatively large weights per voter.

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