29 May 2011

Electoral College and fair representation

There is been a certain amount of chatter in the right-wing blogosphere about the size of California and its so-called massive representation in the electoral college. The thinking is that California is overrepresented in the EC.

This is a lie. Actually, California is slightly UNDERREPRESENTED in the EC.

I am going to set the matter straight. The statistics are based on the 2010 census, the data for which you can get here or here. Once again, math triumphs over propaganda.

I am going to start with a direct comparison between California, the largest state in the nation in population, and Wyoming, the smallest state in the nation in population.

California has officially 12.06% of the US population. (Census 2010): 37,253,296 / 308,745,538 = 12.06%

California has 53 congressional districts: 53 / 435 = 12.18%

California is +0.12% overrepresented in the House of Representatives. That is nearly perfect representation.

So, California is only slightly underrepresented in the electoral college, for the rules say number of congressional representatives plus the 2 senators. 53 + 2 = 55. So, the number is correct.

55 / 538 = 10.22% of the EC (underrepresentation by -0.84% in terms of population)

And just so we don't lose sense of context here, California has a larger population than all but 34 nations on this earth, including Canada, Saudi Arabia, Taiwan, Romania, Chile, the Netherlands.... (I think you are getting the point).

Now, lets compare California to Wyoming. The law requires that a state have at least one representative, regardless how small its population is:

Wyoming has a population of 563,626. 563,626 / 308,745,538 = 0.18% (0.182553569%, if that really interests) of the US population. That is less than two-tenths of just one percent of the US population. Were Wyoming to be allocated a representative based solely on population, then:

435 * 0.0018 = 0.783. Actually, Wyoming only deserves about 3/4 of a representative. But since it gets one, then here is Wyoming's representation:

1 / 435 = 0.23%. Therefore, Wyoming is +0.05% overrepresented in the House of Representatives. That is nearly perfect representation.

There is only a 0.07% differential between California and Wyoming in real representation in the House of representatives, based purely on population. In the world of statistics, this is negligible.

Now, here is where those two pesky extra EV, one for each senator, comes into play. This is the "game-changer", if you will:

California: 55 EV.: 55 / 538 = 10.22% of the electoral college
Wyoming: 3 EV: 3 / 538 = 0.56% of the electoral college.

So, when you factor in the two EV for the senators, California is underrepresented, Wyoming is overrepresented in the electoral college.

Let's look at this again:

California: 12.06% of the population, 12.18% of the House of Representatives, only 10.22% of the EC.

Wyoming: 0.18% of the population, 0.22% of the House of Representatives, 0.56% of the EC - more than double its worth in population.

This means that at the end of the day, regardless of California's monolithic size, a vote in Wyoming carries more weight than in California!

Or, let's look at it this way: California's population divided by Wyoming's population:

37,253,956 / 563,626 = 66.10. The population of the state of California is SIXTY SIX times bigger than the population of Wyoming. I repeat: the population of the state of California is SIXTY SIX times bigger than the population of Wyoming!!

Now, let's compare the electoral firepower of both states:

CA 55 / WY 3 = 18.30. In terms of actual representation in the Electoral College, the state of California is now only EIGHTEEN POINT THREE times larger than Wyoming. Not very fair for a state that is SIXTY SIX time larger in actual population, eh?

Even more interesting:

Let us look at all of the smallest of the so called "red" states whose electors add up to close to 55, in ascending order of population. Those are the thirteen smallest states that went for John McCain in 2008:

WY- 3
ND - 3 (6)
AK - 3 (9)
SD - 3 (12)
MT - 3 (15)
ID - 4 (19)
NE - 5 (24)
WV - 5 (29)
UT - 5 (35)
KS - 6 (41)
AR - 6 (47)
MS - 6 (53)
OK - 7 (60)

(the meaning of the demarcation between MS and OK will be apparently shortly)

Now, here the populations of those same 13 states:

WY- 563,626
ND - 642,200 (1,206,126)
AK - 626,932 (1,833,058)
SD - 754,844 (2,587,902)
MT - 902,195* (3,490,097)
ID - 1,293,953 (4,784,050)
NE - 1,711,263 (6,495,313)
WV - 1,808,344 (8,303,657)
UT - 2,233,169** (10,536,826)
KS - 2,688,418 (13,225,244)
AR - 2,673,400 (15,878,644)
MS - 2,844,658 (18,743,302)
OK - 3,450,654*** (22,193,956)
TOT: 22,193,956

This means that the total population of the 13 smallest "red" states in the union, worth a whopping 60 electors, is 22,193,956.

22,193,956 / 308,745,538 is 7.19% of the US population and puts the total population of these 13 smallest "red" states between the populations of New York (19,378,102) and Texas (25,145,561), but closer to the population of Texas. Texas will have 38 electors in 2012. These 13 states have 60 electors.

60 / 538 = 11.15% of the Electoral college. Those small states, under the current system, are grossly overrepresented in the Electoral college!!

Remember California's population: 37,253,956 (11.06% of the US population):

37,253,956 / 22,193,956 = 1.68 time larger than those 13 states, but with less representation in the EC than those 13 states. Absolutely unfair and undemocratic.

Maps will help the best. Here, the 13 "red" states are close to the population of Texas, marked here in green:

Now, a visual comparison of those thirteen states to California:

If you decide to take Oklahoma off the list (for this reason, the demarcation line), then it looks like this:

12 smallest "red" states, 18,743,302 (slightly smaller than NY with 29 electors). 6.44% of the US population, 53 electors.

Compare again to California: 37,253,956, 11.06% of the US population, 55 electors.

37,253,956 / 18,743,302 = California is 1.99 (2) times larger than those twelve states, but has only only 2 electors more!

Again, maps will help the best. Here the 12 red states are close to the population of one large state, this time New York, in green:

And again, a visual comparison, this time of twelve of those thirteen states to California:

FINALLY, and in conclusion, were we to have a NEW electoral college of 1,000 electronic electors plus 2 "senator electors" each state (1,110 electors total), here is how the representation would work out:

California: 11.06% of the population: 111 electronic electors + 2 for the senators = 113 total electors.
113 / 1,100 = 10.27% of a new electoral college. California would still be slightly underrepresented, but by a smaller percentual margin of -0.79% .

The thirteen smallest "red" states: 7.19% us of the population: 72 electronic electors + 2 for the senators in each state (26) = 98 total electors. 98 / 1,100 = 8.91% Those thirteen states would be overrepresented, but by much less of a margin than previously.

Actually, every state would be underrepresented in a miniscule way, because of DC simply being in the mix without adding electors on top of 1,000..... and were we to allow americans in the territories to vote, then things would change again, but that is a topic for another day.
Now, think about this for a second. Had every vote counted equally among the 50 states plus DC in 2000, Gore would have also won in the electoral college, for the redistribution of EC votes to actually represent the population would have tilted away from the smaller states and toward the larger states. Those red "breadbasket" and "blue sky" states would have easily lost a total of 5 electors, Bush only came in at 271....

Now, the right can make the argument, and rightfully so, that a combination of small "blue" states could also add up to the electoral firepower of Texas and therefore a vote in Texas would be worth less overall than a vote in those small blue states, and those conservatives would be absolutely right. It would just be more proof that the electoral college tilts far too far toward the "tyranny of the minority". It must be changed.

*(1.60 times the size of Wyoming, same number of electors, to note)
**(almost 4 times the size of Wyoming, but only 2 electors more, or 1.7 times the size of representation)
***(6.12 times bigger than Wyoming, only 4 electors more: 2.33 times more representation than Wyoming)


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