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SENTRY JOURNAL » Electoral College, National Popular Vote, Progressive States Network » Popular Vote: By the Numbers

Popular Vote: By the Numbers

by RightHandMan

John, Matt (from Conservative Hideout), and Steve (from motorcitytimes) have been blogging about an important issue regarding our Electoral College (EC) and the Progressive States Network’s (PSN) attempt to destroy it. It seems that the PSN’s have trolls running around posting in the comments sections at our conservative sites. While we invite the comments, I feel it is important to refute the outlandish lies that are being presented.

The PSN would have you believe that the presidential electoral process is unfair, specifically to the smaller states; a lie that too many are buying in to. It should be obvious to all of us that this is untrue since one main purpose of the EC was and is to weight the system to boost the value of votes of smaller states. The PSN would have you believe that smaller states are being ignored by politicians because the votes in these states mean so little to the candidate. The argument, of course, evolves into the assumption that the popular vote would grant these states more power because in that system “every vote counts”.

While every vote in a popular vote would count, I’m here to prove that every vote in the smaller states would count for less. I decided to compute the value the popular vote and the electoral vote for three small states (Montana, ND, and SD) compared to the value of three large states (California, NY, and Florida) from the 2008 presidential election. In order to calculate the electoral value I simply divided the state’s electoral vote (3 for each of the small states, 55 for California, 31 for NY, and 27 for Florida) by the total US electoral votes (538). In order to calculate the popular vote value I took the number of voters within each state divided by the total number of voters nationwide.

Here are the findings:
US Voters- 538 electoral votes
125,225,901 total voters

ND – 3 electoral votes
309,879 total voters
ND popular vote value = .24%
Electoral vote value = .56%

Montana – 3 electoral votes
476,041 total voters
Montana popular vote value = .38%
Electoral vote value = .56%

SD- 3 electoral votes
373,978 total voters
SD popular vote value = .29%
Electoral vote value = .56%

California- 55 electoral votes
13,286,254 total voters
California popular vote value = 10.6%
Electoral vote value = 10.2%

New York – 31 electoral votes
7,557,429 total voters
New York popular vote value = 6%
Electoral vote value = 5.7%

Florida – 27 electoral votes
8,327,698 total voters
Florida popular vote value = 6.6%
Electoral vote value = 5%

There you go. The numbers are plain, smaller states get more worth out of an electoral vote than they would out of a popular vote. If the EC was abolished in favor of the popular vote smaller states would pull even less weight in the election and therefore ignored even more by candidates. If the popular vote were the process of election, why would anyone leave the populations?

Below is a cartogram showing how the states would look given the popular vote value:

Compare the above map to the map below. This map below is a cartogram showing the value of states given the electoral vote value. As you can see certain states are given more weight in the EC cartogram – specifically the smaller states like Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, North & South Dakota, etc. You might also notice that the states given more weight are, at the moment, “red states”. (The above map is from 2008 and the below map is taken from 2004, but the values are nearly identical. There were just more red states in 2004.)
It took me less than 15 minutes to compute the numbers which makes one wonder; why haven’t the people at the PSN done the same? It isn’t rocket science. If they are all for the smaller states having more pull, why are they fighting for something that would hurt them in the name of saving them? Is there hidden agenda in here? I’ll leave that for you to decide.

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Filed under: Electoral College, National Popular Vote, Progressive States Network

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  • steve September 24, 2010 at 8:21 PM

    RHM, great post- If you flip the argument around and look at the influence large metropolitan areas would wield it is really unfair to small states and rural areas.

    According to the 2000 Census, the top 10 metropolitan areas in the United States contain nearly 30% of the nations population with New York City and Los Angeles combined account for nearly 13% of the nations population.

    For comparison, the ENTIRE states of New York and California control 86 (15.9% ) of the electoral college’s 538 electoral votes. If the United States moved to a popular vote, large metropolitan areas such as New York and LA will command more power and influence than entire states do today.

  • John Carey September 24, 2010 at 8:46 PM

    The math is really quite that simple Right. Good job breaking it down. I think we need to do whatever is necessary to wake the people up in this country and educate them on just how vital the Electoral College. The sooner the better.

  • Matt September 24, 2010 at 10:01 PM

    Great research, great post!

    I remember that there were folks talking about doing away with the electoral college back in the 90's. The response then is the same now. As you so accurately point out, the NPV is about rendering people in flyover country irrelevant.

  • LD Jackson September 25, 2010 at 3:25 AM

    And they wonder why we always claim we are right on these matters? Uh, it's because we are right and we have the numbers to prove it. Good job, Right Hand Man.

  • Steve Dennis September 25, 2010 at 5:48 AM

    Great work Right Hand Man! The electoral college was set up to give the smaller states a more fair system yet the people that support the PVM would have you think that the recerse is true. Judging by your number it looks as if the founders were right once again.

  • Right Hand Man September 25, 2010 at 6:46 AM

    Thanks for the comments guys. The research isn't exactly difficult. People in support of the popular vote must either deny the research, ignore it, or understand it. If they deny it, then you have to question their state of mind. If they ignore it, then their argument is based on ignorance. If they understand it, then they must have a twisted agenda.

  • Gorges Smythe September 25, 2010 at 7:26 AM

    "It took me less than 15 minutes to compute the numbers which makes one wonder; why haven’t the people at the PSN done the same?"

    Even if they DID the math, it would come out strangely different than your own version; since they obviously don't want the truth to come out. I'm reminded of the old saying that goes, "Figures don't lie, but liars figure."

  • Teresa September 25, 2010 at 7:27 AM

    You have done us all a great service by researching and calculating the numbers, Right. Thank you very much for doing so.

    "Is there hidden agenda in here?" Is there ever not a hidden agenda when it comes to these progressives?

  • toto September 25, 2010 at 11:21 AM

    The small states are the most disadvantaged group of states under the current system of electing the President. Political clout comes from being a closely divided battleground state, not the two-vote bonus.

    12 of the 13 smallest states (3-4 electoral votes) are almost invariably non-competitive, and ignored, in presidential elections. Six regularly vote Republican (Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, North Dakota, and South Dakota),, and six regularly vote Democratic (Rhode Island, Delaware, Hawaii, Vermont, Maine, and DC) in presidential elections. So despite the fact that these 12 states together possess 40 electoral votes, because they are not closely divided battleground states, none of these 12 states get visits, advertising or polling or policy considerations by presidential candidates.

    These 12 states together contain 11 million people. Because of the two electoral-vote bonus that each state receives, the 12 non-competitive small states have 40 electoral votes. However, the two-vote bonus is an entirely illusory advantage to the small states. Ohio has 11 million people and has "only" 20 electoral votes. As we all know, the 11 million people in Ohio are the center of attention in presidential campaigns, while the 11 million people in the 12 non-competitive small states are utterly irrelevant. Nationwide election of the President would make each of the voters in the 12 smallest states as important as an Ohio voter.

    The concept of a national popular vote for President is far from being politically "radioactive" in small states, because the small states recognize they are the most disadvantaged group of states under the current system.

    In the 13 smallest states, the National Popular Vote bill already has been approved by nine state legislative chambers, including one house in DC, Delaware and Maine and both houses in Hawaii, Rhode Island, and Vermont. It has been enacted by Hawaii.

    Most of the medium-small states (with five or six electoral votes) are similarly non-competitive in presidential elections (and therefore similarly disadvantaged). In fact, of the 22 medium-smallest states (those with three, four, five, or six electoral votes), only New Hampshire (with four electoral votes), New Mexico (five electoral votes), and Nevada (five electoral votes) have been battleground states in recent elections.

    Because so few of the 22 small and medium-small states are closely divided battleground states in presidential elections, the current system actually shifts power from voters in the small and medium-small states to voters in a handful of big states. The New York Times reported early in 2008 (May 11, 2008) that both major political parties were already in agreement that there would be at most 14 battleground states in 2008 (involving only 166 of the 538 electoral votes). In other words, three-quarters of the states were ignored under the current system in the 2008 election. Michigan (17 electoral votes), Ohio (20), Pennsylvania (21), and Florida (27) contain over half of the electoral votes that mattered in 2008 (85 of the 166 electoral votes). There were only three battleground states among the 22 small and medium-small states (i.e., New Hampshire, New Mexico, and Nevada). These three states contain only 14 of the 166 electoral votes.

    Anyone concerned about the relative power of big states and small states should realize that the current system shifts power from voters in the small and medium-small states to voters in a handful of big states.

  • toto September 25, 2010 at 11:23 AM

    The 11 most populous states contain 56% of the population of the United States and a candidate would win the Presidency if 100% of the voters in these 11 states voted for one candidate. However, if anyone is concerned about the this theoretical possibility, it should be pointed out that, under the current system, a candidate could win the Presidency by winning a mere 51% of the vote in these same 11 states — that is, a mere 26% of the nation's votes.

    The political reality is that the 11 largest states rarely agree on any political question. In terms of recent presidential elections, the 11 largest states include five "red states (Texas, Florida, Ohio, North Carolina, and Georgia) and six "blue" states (California, New York, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and New Jersey). The fact is that the big states are just about as closely divided as the rest of the country. For example, among the four largest states, the two largest Republican states (Texas and Florida) generated a total margin of 2.1 million votes for Bush, while the two largest Democratic states generated a total margin of 2.1 million votes for Kerry.

    Moreover, the notion that any candidate could win 100% of the vote in one group of states and 0% in another group of states is far-fetched. Indeed, among the 11 most populous states, the highest levels of popular support , hardly overwhelming, were found in the following seven non-battleground states:
    * Texas (62% Republican),
    * New York (59% Democratic),
    * Georgia (58% Republican),
    * North Carolina (56% Republican),
    * Illinois (55% Democratic),
    * California (55% Democratic), and
    * New Jersey (53% Democratic).

    In addition, the margins generated by the nation's largest states are hardly overwhelming in relation to the 122,000,000 votes cast nationally. Among the 11 most populous states, the highest margins were the following seven non-battleground states:
    * Texas — 1,691,267 Republican
    * New York — 1,192,436 Democratic
    * Georgia — 544,634 Republican
    * North Carolina — 426,778 Republican
    * Illinois — 513,342 Democratic
    * California — 1,023,560 Democratic
    * New Jersey — 211,826 Democratic

    To put these numbers in perspective, Oklahoma (7 electoral votes) alone generated a margin of 455,000 "wasted" votes for Bush in 2004 — larger than the margin generated by the 9th and 10th largest states, namely New Jersey and North Carolina (each with 15 electoral votes). Utah (5 electoral votes) alone generated a margin of 385,000 "wasted" votes for Bush in 2004.

    In 2004:
    • 8 small western states, with less than a third of California’s population, provided Bush with a bigger margin (1,283,076) than California provided Kerry (1,235,659).
    • The 6 states that provided the Democrats with their largest vote margins in 2004 were CA, IL, MD, MS, NJ, and NY.
    • All 11 of the Southern states (the old Confederacy) voted for Bush.
    • The 11 southern states provided Bush with a bigger margin (4,653,558) than the 6 states with the largest Kerry vote margins (4,428,268) in 2004.

  • toto September 25, 2010 at 11:25 AM

    The population of the top five cities (New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston and Philadelphia) is only 6% of the population of the United States and the population of the top 50 cities (going as obscurely far down in name recognition as Arlington, TX) is only 19% of the population of the United States.

    When presidential candidates campaign to win the electoral votes of closely divided battleground states, such as in Ohio and Florida, under the state-by-state winner-take-all rules, the big cities in those battleground states do not receive all the attention, much less control the outcome. Cleveland and Miami certainly did not receive all the attention or control the outcome in Ohio and Florida in 2000 and 2004.

    For example, in California state-wide elections, candidates for governor or U.S. Senate don't campaign just in Los Angeles and San Francisco, and those places don't control the outcome (otherwise California wouldn't have recently had Republican governors Reagan, Dukemejian, Wilson, and Schwarzenegger). A vote in rural Alpine county is just an important as a vote in Los Angeles.

    If the National Popular Vote bill were to become law, it would not change the need for candidates to build a winning coalition across demographics. Any candidate who yielded, for example, the 21% of Americans who live in rural areas in favor of a "big city" approach would not likely win the national popular vote. Candidates would still have to appeal to a broad range of demographics, and perhaps even more so, because the election wouldn't be capable of coming down to just one demographic, such as voters in Ohio.

  • toto September 25, 2010 at 11:27 AM

    In Gallup polls since 1944, only about 20% of the public has supported the current system of awarding all of a state's electoral votes to the presidential candidate who receives the most votes in each separate state (with about 70% opposed and about 10% undecided). The recent Washington Post, Kaiser Family Foundation, and Harvard University poll shows 72% support for direct nationwide election of the President. Support for a national popular vote is strong in virtually every state, partisan, and demographic group surveyed in recent polls in closely divided battleground states: Colorado– 68%, Iowa –75%, Michigan– 73%, Missouri– 70%, New Hampshire– 69%, Nevada– 72%, New Mexico– 76%, North Carolina– 74%, Ohio– 70%, Pennsylvania — 78%, Virginia — 74%, and Wisconsin — 71%; in smaller states (3 to 5 electoral votes): Alaska — 70%, DC — 76%, Delaware –75%, Maine — 77%, Nebraska — 74%, New Hampshire –69%, Nevada — 72%, New Mexico — 76%, Rhode Island — 74%, and Vermont — 75%; in Southern and border states: Arkansas –80%, Kentucky — 80%, Mississippi –77%, Missouri — 70%, North Carolina — 74%, and Virginia — 74%; and in other states polled: California — 70%, Connecticut — 74% , Massachusetts — 73%, Minnesota — 75%, New York — 79%, Washington — 77%, and West Virginia- 81%.

    Most voters don't care whether their presidential candidate wins or loses in their state . . . they care whether he/she wins the White House. Voters want to know, that even if they were on the losing side, their vote actually was counted and mattered to their candidate.

    The National Popular Vote bill has passed 31 state legislative chambers, in 21 small, medium-small, medium, and large states, including one house in Arkansas (6), Connecticut (7), Delaware (3), The District of Columbia (3), Maine (4), Michigan (17), Nevada (5), New Mexico (5), New York (31), North Carolina (15), and Oregon (7), and both houses in California (55), Colorado (9), Hawaii (4), Illinois (21), New Jersey (15), Maryland (10), Massachusetts (12), Rhode Island (4), Vermont (3), and Washington (11). The bill has been enacted by Hawaii, Illinois, New Jersey, Maryland, Massachusetts, and Washington. These six states possess 73 electoral votes — 27% of the 270 necessary to bring the law into effect.


  • Right Hand Man September 25, 2010 at 4:41 PM

    *sigh* …pointless?

  • John Carey September 25, 2010 at 5:36 PM

    Toto is just spewing the progressive propaganda. Even with the math in front of him or her they are under the spell of the kool-aid and can't think for themselves or see the truth. If you check out my post on the popular vote from a few days ago, you'll see toto cut and pasted the same garbage. This must be a subject that gets under someone's skin when you disagree with the NPV.

  • Reaganite Republican September 26, 2010 at 5:00 AM

    Great piece John… and no dearth of debate!