Promoted from the Ricochet Member Feed by Editors Created with Sketch. The “Unfairness” of the Electoral College Didn’t Swing the 2016 Election

 
electoralmap2016
2016 election results via google’s election map.

In the wake of the election, there have been renewed complaints about the Electoral College, specifically, how it unfairly rewards small states with disproportionate voting power. The supposed implication is that Donald Trump won the election, despite losing the national popular vote, because small states vote Republican. Well, I did a little number crunching.

If the Electoral College’s 538 votes were redistributed proportionally to their populations (i.e., removing the “bonus” small states receive from their senators) but kept the winner-take-all format, Trump would have won about 56 percent of the electoral votesIn real life, he won about 57 percent of the electoral votes (assuming he wins Michigan, Clinton wins New Hampshire, and Maine goes 3-1 for Clinton). If anyone’s been worried about the Electoral College favoring small states, it didn’t affect this election. The determining feature of the Electoral College this time around was its winner-take-all format, at least, outside of Maine and Nebraska.

Here are my calculations based on US Census estimates from 2015.

electoraltotals2016

A friend of mine, a Democrat, also made the following observation:

Lastly, clearly the Electoral College favors the Republicans right now given that Trump won the election and Hillary won the popular vote, but it’s not because “less populous states are red” or any variant of that argument. The [less-populus] red states are just bigger and in the middle, so they’re easier to see.

Of the smallest 12 states (all the states with <= 4 electoral votes), 6 went red (Wyoming, Alaska, ND, SD, Montana, Idaho) and 6 went blue (Hawaii, NH, Maine, RI, Delaware, VT). In fact, the Dems also won DC, so the dems are more helped by the electoral college on the low end.

On the high end, the top 4 split 2-2 (CA, NY vs FL, TX). It’s the next 8 that had a big effect on this election, Hillary only won 3 (IL, NJ, VA), while Trump won 5 (PA, OH, GA, NC, MI).

He later added fittingly, based on the analysis of the smallest states, “New Hampshire is the swing state to see if small states favor Republicans or Democrats.”

There are 32 comments.

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  1. OmegaPaladin Moderator

    Very interesting analysis.

    • #1
    • November 12, 2016, at 10:39 PM PST
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  2. The (apathetic) King Prawn Inactive

    Good data. I just ask “which one” every time someone I know complains about the popular vote. There are 51 elections going on that day. It’s more like a playoff series where all the games are played simultaneously.

    • #2
    • November 12, 2016, at 10:40 PM PST
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  3. Quake Voter Inactive

    Mark Wilson: Of the smallest 12 states (all the states with <= 4 electoral votes), 6 went red (Wyoming, Alaska, ND, SD, Montana, Idaho) and 6 went blue (Hawaii, NH, Maine, RI, Delaware, VT). In fact, the Dems also won DC, so the dems are more helped by the electoral college on the low end.

    Not to nitpick, but you should probably stick to “least populous”. The small Democratic states are literally small. I believe all six would fit within North Dakota.

    In other words, our small states are bigly.

    You put more thought and care into your research than any Dems do into their rhetoric. Whenever I remind my Dem friends of Delaware, Rhode Island et al. when they whine about two senators from Wyoming they are genuinely taken aback.

    • #3
    • November 12, 2016, at 11:37 PM PST
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  4. Arahant Member

    But they are not speaking of tinkering with the electoral college. They want it eliminated to give us a straight democratic national vote for PotUS.

    • #4
    • November 13, 2016, at 1:08 AM PST
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  5. I Walton Member

    Eliminating the electoral college would significantly raise the incentives for big city voter fraud and the machines would succeed. This is like bank regulation; by the time regulators figure out how financial institutions skirt regulations, the sector has invented ten more ways to do so. So the regulators just gave up and join the sector. We can’t fix bank regulation because we choose not to, we’d never stay on top of election fraud without the electoral college, the returns would be too large.

    • #5
    • November 13, 2016, at 4:27 AM PST
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  6. A-Squared Coolidge

    I Walton: Eliminating the electoral college would significantly raise the incentives for big city voter fraud and the machines would succeed.

    I always say imagine a “Florida” like recount of 120 million votes.

    And right now, massive voter fraud in states completely controlled by one party cannot change the outcome of the Presidential election because they can’t win any additional EC votes. Eliminate the EC and massive voter fraud suddenly becomes productive.

    • #6
    • November 13, 2016, at 6:35 AM PST
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  7. Quake Voter Inactive

    Always keep in mind that arguments amongst Ricochetti members involve folks with a complex mix of priors re tradition, equity, political theory, practical politics etc.

    Arguments with Democrats involve one prior: advantage for Democrats. If the electoral college as is locked in a generational advantage, the electoral college would be the soul of democracy. If a modified electoral college based on House representation or a congressional district based system of electors locked in the Dem advantage, it would be the Platonic ideal.

    We are a debased, greedy, racist, sexist, homophobic mob and they are a rational, caring, cooperative party of enlightenment. Whatever disadvantages us and privileges them is obviously correct.

    It’s all reverse engineering for Democrats.

    • #7
    • November 13, 2016, at 7:00 AM PST
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  8. Eustace C. Scrubb Member

    How I found myself defending the electoral college on Facebook and other places this week:

    But we are a Republic, not a pure Democracy,and there are some good reasons why this is so. If we went to a system where the popular vote determined the President, candidates would only go to California, New York and a few other populous states and promise bacon to them and give Bac’n Pieces to all the other states.

    • #8
    • November 13, 2016, at 7:17 AM PST
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  9. Arahant Member

    A-Squared: Eliminate the EC and massive voter fraud suddenly becomes productive.

    Exactly. Which is why the Progressives want it. “500,000,000 voters in Chicago? Yeah, we can do that.”

    • #9
    • November 13, 2016, at 7:43 AM PST
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  10. Quake Voter Inactive

    Arahant:

    A-Squared: Eliminate the EC and massive voter fraud suddenly becomes productive.

    Exactly. Which is why the Progressives want it. “500,000,000 voters in Chicago? Yeah, we can do that.”

    Not even Rahm can corral that many dead votes.

    But wait until the votes from San Junipero CA come in … forever. Even Chesterton would support that, right?

    • #10
    • November 13, 2016, at 8:31 AM PST
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  11. SkipSul Coolidge
    SkipSul Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Mark Wilson: He later added fittingly, based on the analysis of the smallest states, “New Hampshire s the swing state to see if small states favor Republicans or Democrats.”

    NH is in serious flux right now due to the influx of fleeing Mass and CT residents. They are solidly Dem (ironic as they are fleeing the taxes they voted for), while the long-term residents are not. Meanwhile the Free State Project has been trying to recruit Libertarians in, who mostly vote Republican. It’s a long game to play out there.

    • #11
    • November 13, 2016, at 10:26 AM PST
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  12. rico Inactive

    The King Prawn:Good data. I just ask “which one” every time someone I know complains about the popular vote. There are 51 elections going on that day. It’s more like a playoff series where all the games are played simultaneously.

    Yabbut why do sports have playoffs? Shouldn’t they just add up each teams points at the end of the season and give the trophy to the team with the most points?

    • #12
    • November 13, 2016, at 1:10 PM PST
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  13. Mark Wilson Member
    Mark Wilson Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    rico:

    Yabbut why do sports have playoffs? Shouldn’t they just add up each teams points at the end of the season and give the trophy to the team with the most points?

    That’s a great analogy actually. The Stanley Cup Champion should obviously the team with the highest goal differential during the regular season, regardless of win-loss record.

    • #13
    • November 13, 2016, at 3:37 PM PST
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  14. Skyler Coolidge

    If the rules were different, and the popular vote were what mattered, a lot more Texans would vote. As it is, many don’t because they assume that their vote is just surplus.

    • #14
    • November 14, 2016, at 7:06 AM PST
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  15. Old Bathos Moderator

    I Walton:Eliminating the electoral college would significantly raise the incentives for big city voter fraud and the machines would succeed. This is like bank regulation; by the time regulators figure out how financial institutions skirt regulations, the sector has invented ten more ways to do so. So the regulators just gave up and join the sector. We can’t fix bank regulation because we choose not to, we’d never stay on top of election fraud without the electoral college, the returns would be too large.

    Some have said that the electoral college helps reduce fraud–a corrupt city or county has no incentive to fake more votes than needed to win it’s own state. In a national election, however, turnout in Chicago and Philadelphia might soon exceed 400% with an army of Democratic Party lawyers fighting to prevent those fictitious voters from being disenfranchised.

    • #15
    • November 14, 2016, at 7:11 AM PST
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  16. bill.deweese Coolidge

    Thanks for the deep dive. On thing else. There has been a noticeable amount of commentary among reasonably thinking friends as to an alternative EC approach of each state getting a one-county-one-vote EC model. The idea being still represented, but on a finer granularity. Now, the city of Chicago could get quickly updated to include 500 counties, etc, but has anyone seen any similar deep dives on such a model given the current setting.

    To be sure, I am not advocating one-county-one-vote, I am just numerically curious as to what that would result in given the 2016 dataset and if anyone has a pointer to such analysis.

    • #16
    • November 14, 2016, at 7:29 AM PST
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  17. KC Mulville Inactive

    It was just a couple weeks ago that Democrats loved the Electoral College because with demographics, Hillary already had about 230 EC votes in the bag, and she would only need a couple swing states to get to 270. Something about a Blue Wall?

    If there’s anything that economists and football coaches and politicians and physicists and generals (etc.) ought to understand, it’s that every action causes a reaction. People adjust. No system is foolproof, and victory only lasts for one cycle before the opposition figures you out and devises a counter-strategy. If we dropped the Electoral College, some new strategy will come along to exploit different nuances of an election.

    • #17
    • November 14, 2016, at 7:35 AM PST
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  18. Arahant Member

    bill.deweese: To be sure, I am not advocating one-county-one-vote, I am just numerically curious as to what that would result in given the 2016 dataset and if anyone has a pointer to such analysis.

    Nope, and I think that idea to be even less democratic in nature than our current system. Counties vary very widely in area and population. You have counties in the West that are bigger than many states in the east.

    • #18
    • November 14, 2016, at 7:37 AM PST
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  19. cdor Member
    cdor Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    skipsul:

    Mark Wilson: He later added fittingly, based on the analysis of the smallest states, “New Hampshire s the swing state to see if small states favor Republicans or Democrats.”

    NH is in serious flux right now due to the influx of fleeing Mass and CT residents. They are solidly Dem (ironic as they are fleeing the taxes they voted for), while the long-term residents are not. Meanwhile the Free State Project has been trying to recruit Libertarians in, who mostly vote Republican. It’s a long game to play out there.

    Funny the resemblance of liberals fleeing from Mass and CT to NH only to attempt to turn NH into exactly what they were fleeing from to begin with…to illegals fleeing from Guatemala, Honduras, and Mexico into the USA. They will no doubt attempt to make our country just like the “home” from which they fled. And thus they will vote socialism, er Democrat, in huge numbers. Why the Chamber of Commerce Republicans don’t understand or care is beyond me.

    • #19
    • November 14, 2016, at 8:08 AM PST
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  20. Gumby Mark (R-Meth Lab of Demo… Thatcher

    Thanks for the excellent analysis.

    One fallacy advocates of the abolition of the Electoral College fall into is assuming the popular vote would look the same as it does now. Without an Electoral College, election campaigns would be run much differently. For instance, Republican candidates would campaign in California and New York because those votes would now count for something, while Democrats would campaign in some solid red states. The net impact is impossible to predict.

    And from a voters perspective, if you are a Republican in California what do you see? Why vote in most of the state? Most of the Congressional districts are non-competitive; they didn’t even allow a Republican to be on the ballot for the Senate and Trump was never going to win the state. The Presidential vote equation changes without an Electoral College.

    • #20
    • November 14, 2016, at 8:18 AM PST
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  21. Crow's Nest Inactive

    Its funny that the party that structures its primary process with Superdelegates gets the vapors about the Electoral College, isn’t it? But, of course, theirs isn’t a principled argument, its an argument from convenience.

    While the Electoral College doesn’t quite work as the Founders intended in the initial debate (the party system necessarily altered it), I think in the main it has been a benefit. One can argue it is “antidemocratic” in the sense that a pure majority vote doesn’t determine the outcome, but can’t one say that it is democratic in the sense that it gives voice to the whole people–especially those who don’t live in major cities? Is it more democratic to have an election turn on 10 major urban areas than across a country of 300 million? Would that government be more representative?

    • #21
    • November 14, 2016, at 9:49 AM PST
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  22. Instugator Thatcher
    Instugator Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    One quibble. We need to stop agreeing with the premise that Hillary won the popular vote. She has won the recorded vote, not necessarily the popular vote.

    It varies state to state, but typically absentee ballots are not counted unless the quantity of absentee ballots is in excess of the margin of difference.

    For example, in the 2000 election, over 2M absentee ballots in CA were never counted.

    She won the recorded vote, the popular vote has not been entirely counted.

    • #22
    • November 14, 2016, at 2:25 PM PST
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  23. TempTime Member

    Instugator:One quibble. We need to stop agreeing with the premise that Hillary won the popular vote. She has won the recorded vote, not necessarily the popular vote.

    It varies state to state, but typically absentee ballots are not counted unless the quantity of absentee ballots is in excess of the margin of difference.

    For example, in the 2000 election, over 2M absentee ballots in CA were never counted.

    She won the recorded vote, the popular vote has not been entirely counted.

    Yes. This is true in Florida; they do not count absentee votes unless it is deemed “necessary”. And this is why I helped a few folks who were going to do the absentee ballot thing to change their mind. Then I drove them to vote in person so as to ensure “your vote is counted.” I think most people still do not realize absentee votes are frequently not counted.

    • #23
    • November 14, 2016, at 2:43 PM PST
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  24. A-Squared Coolidge

    TempTime:

    Instugator:One quibble. We need to stop agreeing with the premise that Hillary won the popular vote. She has won the recorded vote, not necessarily the popular vote.

    It varies state to state, but typically absentee ballots are not counted unless the quantity of absentee ballots is in excess of the margin of difference.

    For example, in the 2000 election, over 2M absentee ballots in CA were never counted.

    She won the recorded vote, the popular vote has not been entirely counted.

    Yes. This is true in Florida; they do not count absentee votes unless it is deemed “necessary”. And this is why I helped a few folks who were going to do the absentee ballot thing to change their mind. Then I drove them to vote in person so as to ensure “your vote is counted.” I think most people still do not realize absentee votes are frequently not counted.

    I’ve heard this several times over the last week. Follow up question, what if there is downticket race that is within the margin (statewide or more local), I assume the absentee ballots counted for that race are counted, but do they also add the tallies to the Presidential votes when they do so?

    • #24
    • November 14, 2016, at 3:17 PM PST
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  25. A-Squared Coolidge

    Also, a couple of sites claim that absentee ballots are indeed counted.

    vote.org

    Are absentee ballots counted?
    Yes, all votes are counted, whether they’re cast in-person or by absentee ballot.

    It is a common misconception that absentee ballots are only counted during very tight races. This misconception stems from two things: one, absentee ballots are often counted for days after the election since many are coming from abroad; two, absentee ballots are often a small percentage of all voted ballots. Many elections have a clear winner, so the absentee ballots that are still being counted after election night don’t affect the results as predicted right after the polls close. As absentee voting becomes more popular, however, an increasing number of elections are decided by absentee ballots.

    Federal Voting Assistance Project

    Many absentee ballots are cast by voters who are unable to vote at their physical polling place due to being an active duty military member, a family member of someone on active duty or a U.S. citizen residing overseas. All ballots submitted according to State laws are counted in every election.

    The media often will report the projected outcome of the election before all of the ballots are counted. In a close election, the media may report that the outcome cannot be announced until after the absentee ballots are counted. However, all ballots, including absentee ballots, are counted in the final totals for every election – and every vote (absentee or in-person) counts the same.

    • #25
    • November 14, 2016, at 3:22 PM PST
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  26. Fake John/Jane Galt Coolidge

    A-Squared:Also, a couple of sites claim that absentee ballots are indeed counted.

    vote.org

    Are absentee ballots counted?
    Yes, all votes are counted, whether they’re cast in-person or by absentee ballot.

    It is a common misconception that absentee ballots are only counted during very tight races. This misconception stems from two things: one, absentee ballots are often counted for days after the election since many are coming from abroad; two, absentee ballots are often a small percentage of all voted ballots. Many elections have a clear winner, so the absentee ballots that are still being counted after election night don’t affect the results as predicted right after the polls close. As absentee voting becomes more popular, however, an increasing number of elections are decided by absentee ballots.

    Federal Voting Assistance Project

    Many absentee ballots are cast by voters who are unable to vote at their physical polling place due to being an active duty military member, a family member of someone on active duty or a U.S. citizen residing overseas. All ballots submitted according to State laws are counted in every election.

    The media often will report the projected outcome of the election before all of the ballots are counted. In a close election, the media may report that the outcome cannot be announced until after the absentee ballots are counted. However, all ballots, including absentee ballots, are counted in the final totals for every election – and every vote (absentee or in-person) counts the same.

    Of course absentee ballots are counted. Well the Democrat ones are anyway. Then there are those dead guys. Those are definitely counted since the are carted in from a Democrat GOTV organizations.

    • #26
    • November 14, 2016, at 3:27 PM PST
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  27. TempTime Member

    A-Squared: I’ve heard this several times over the last week. Follow up question, what if there is downticket race that is within the margin (statewide or more local), I assume the absentee ballots counted for that race are counted, but do they also add the tallies to the Presidential votes when they do so?

    Not sure exactly how they do it. I am thinking they only count the votes for the “within margins” races and ignore the rest of the ballot because I can’t imagine they would hand count anymore votes than absolutely necessary. On the other hand if the votes are machine counted, then I think all votes would be counted.

    To be honest, I did not asked many questions after I was told the ballot is not counted at all unless necessary; it was just an impression I got that absentee ballots are hand counted.

    Also of importance with Absentee Ballots — if you must vote via absentee ballot, don’t leave any “blanks” on your ballot OR the person processing your ballot may just decide to “fill in a bubble” and vote for you. They have caught people doing this in MiamiDade county.

    • #27
    • November 14, 2016, at 4:24 PM PST
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  28. Larry Koler Inactive

    Mark Wilson:

    rico:

    Yabbut why do sports have playoffs? Shouldn’t they just add up each teams points at the end of the season and give the trophy to the team with the most points?

    That’s a great analogy actually. The Stanley Cup Champion should obviously the team with the highest goal differential during the regular season, regardless of win-loss record.

    That is a genius way to look at it. Thanks, Rico. I will remember that one.

    • #28
    • November 14, 2016, at 4:28 PM PST
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  29. Mark Wilson Member
    Mark Wilson Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Instugator:One quibble. We need to stop agreeing with the premise that Hillary won the popular vote. She has won the recorded vote, not necessarily the popular vote.

    I agree, for a different reason. (The first paragraph of the original post was not written by me, but added by an editor when they promoted the post to the main feed.)

    There is no such thing as a national popular vote. There are 51 separate elections with all kinds of different rules. Adding those totals together is mathematically possible but it can be misleading to treat it as an indicator of national support. It’s not quite adding apples and oranges, but it’s not quite apples and apples either.

    • #29
    • November 14, 2016, at 5:21 PM PST
    • Like
  30. Gazpacho Grande' Coolidge

    TempTime:

    A-Squared: I’ve heard this several times over the last week. Follow up question, what if there is downticket race that is within the margin (statewide or more local), I assume the absentee ballots counted for that race are counted, but do they also add the tallies to the Presidential votes when they do so?

    Not sure exactly how they do it. I am thinking they only count the votes for the “within margins” races and ignore the rest of the ballot because I can’t imagine they would hand count anymore votes than absolutely necessary. On the other hand if the votes are machine counted, then I think all votes would be counted.

    To be honest, I did not asked many questions after I was told the ballot is not counted at all unless necessary; it was just an impression I got that absentee ballots are hand counted.

    Also of importance with Absentee Ballots — if you must vote via absentee ballot, don’t leave any “blanks” on your ballot OR the person processing your ballot may just decide to “fill in a bubble” and vote for you. They have caught people doing this in MiamiDade county.

    That’s just swell. Hadn’t considered that at all.

    • #30
    • November 14, 2016, at 5:33 PM PST
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