In the United States, we like to think we live in a “one person, one vote” democracy that elects our President, but in reality, how much your vote counts depends on where you live.
Each state is given a number of Electoral College votes based on its population and in almost every state, whoever wins the popular vote gets all of that state's Electoral College votes. And, because each state is winner take all, the total popular vote winner may be different from the winner of the most Electoral College votes.
But that’s OK, because . . . well, I’ll let The Donald explain,
Let’s take a step back.
The problem is that not only do states vary greatly on who has access to the ballot box but, assuming you have successfully cleared the bureaucratic hurdles to get a voter ID card, waited in line for several hours, and cleared all the other voter suppression tactics and actually voted in your state, the Electoral College system itself is tilted in favor of certain states and certain voters.
If we divide the total U.S. population (about 319 million) by 538 electoral college votes, each electoral college vote should equal about 593K people.
So if we take our nation’s most populated state—California—and divide its 39.1 million population by 593K, the state should get sixty-six electoral college votes. Under the Electoral College system, however, the state only gets fifty-five electoral college votes.
That’s a difference of eleven electoral college votes—more than all the electoral college votes of the vaunted swing states of Iowa (six) and New Hampshire (four).
It also happens that California has our nation's largest minority population, with about 24 million people, or 61.5 percent of the state’s population.
Meanwhile, if we look at one of our nation’s least populated states—North Dakota—and divide its 757K population by 593K, the state should get about one electoral vote. However, under the Electoral College system, it gets three votes.
It also happens that North Dakota has the lowest minority population in the country—less than ten thousand.
That means in North Dakota a voter—who is most likely to be white—has three times more say in who gets to become President. And it means that a California voter—who is most likely to be not white—has a vote that is worth only about 83 percent as the rest of the country.
In fact, if we look at the ten states with the highest minority populations and compare them to the states with the ten with the lowest minority populations, the results are just as glaringly unfair.
The states with the fewest minorities (Idaho, New Hampshire, Nebraska, North Dakota, Maine, Montana, South Dakota, Vermont, West Virginia, and Wyoming) represent a total electoral college block of thirty-seven electoral votes. Based on their actual population, however, they should only be getting twenty electoral college votes. That’s seventeen more electoral college votes.
Meanwhile, if we add up the ten states with the largest minority populations (California, Texas, Florida, New York, Illinois, Georgia, New Jersey, Virginia and North Carolina), we find that, based on population, they should be getting 276 electoral votes. In reality, though, they only get 240—a difference of thirty-six electoral college votes.
Of course, there are exceptions—Washington, D.C., is a minority-majority area that has three electoral college votes when then it should only get one. Overall, though, the electoral college clearly inflates the votes of states with low minority populations and deflates the votes states with high minority votes.
Considering that 2016 marked the second time in the last five elections where the winner of the popular vote failed to win the archaic Electoral College system, it’s worth noting that that the party overwhelmingly favored by minorities in these two elections—the Democratic Party—came out on the short end of the stick in both circumstances.
And this tilting in favor of small, predominantly white states, effects which party controls the U.S. Senate and, indirectly, which party controls the U.S. Supreme Court.
Indeed, in the wake of this past election, some white conservatives have been sending around thinly veiled racist social media memes in response to criticism of the Electoral College:
Get it? Most minorities live in the blue areas and most whites live in the gray areas. Imagine the horror of those people in the blue areas getting the same voting power as those living in the gray areas.
At some point, this whole “genius” system starts to smell a lot like South African style apartheid—where the party that wins the most votes doesn’t win.
One thing is for sure: It’s certainly a lot easier to Make America Great Again when the system is tilted in favor of only appealing to white voters.
Jud Lounsbury is a political reporter based in Madison, Wisconsin, and a regular contributor to The Progressive.