The Problems with the Electoral College

Posted in civics on Sunday, November 13 2016

It's been a crazy week of analysis on the US Presidential election and how it came to be that Trump won the Electoral College and Clinton won the popular vote. There are lots of threads to pull on, but I'm going to focus on one particular theory I read online: The Electoral College is skewed where some states, like Nebraska, have more EC votes than you would expect given it's population while others, like California, have many fewer. California, by population share alone, should have 11 more EC votes. So did this conspire to give Trump the election?

No.

This is a really easy question to answer, without doing much work at all really. I went to wikipedia and grabbed the state by state population the electoral college votes by state and the election results. I copied and pasted that into a spreadsheet, apportioned electoral college votes by percentage of the (estimated) 2015 population, then rounded to the nearest integer. This leaves you with 2 extra electoral college votes so I just added one each to New Mexico and South Dakota (they were the closest to rounding up, though it didn't actually matter in the end).

Originally Trump won 306 Electoral College votes, if the Electoral College was more representative of the population (by the 2015 population estimate) he would have won 303 Electoral College votes. So, not that decisive. It looks like the gains and losses are pretty evenly split across the candidates. There may be lots of problems with the Electoral College, and first past the post elections in general, this just wasn't one of them.

State 2015 Pop Estimate (%) Actual EC Votes Adjusted EC Votes Actual Results Fantasy Results
Alabama 1.51% 9 8 9 8
Alaska 0.23% 3 1 3 1
Arizona 2.12% 11 11 11 11
Arkansas 0.93% 6 5 6 5
California 12.18% 55 66 0 0
Colorado 1.70% 9 9 0 0
Connecticut 1.12% 7 6 0 0
Delaware 0.29% 3 2 0 0
District of Columbia 0.21% 3 1 0 0
Florida 6.31% 29 34 29 34
Georgia 3.18% 16 17 16 17
Hawaii 0.45% 4 2 0 0
Idaho 0.51% 4 3 4 3
Illinois 4.00% 20 22 0 0
Indiana 2.06% 11 11 11 11
Iowa 0.97% 6 5 6 5
Kansas 0.91% 6 5 6 5
Kentucky 1.38% 8 7 8 7
Louisiana 1.45% 8 8 8 8
Maine 0.41% 4 2 1 0
Maryland 1.87% 10 10 0 0
Massachusetts 2.11% 11 11 0 0
Michigan 3.09% 16 17 16 17
Minnesota 1.71% 10 9 0 0
Mississippi 0.93% 6 5 6 5
Missouri 1.89% 10 10 10 10
Montana 0.32% 3 2 3 2
Nebraska 0.59% 5 3 5 3
Nevada 0.90% 6 5 0 0
New Hampshire 0.41% 4 2 0 0
New Jersey 2.79% 14 15 0 0
New Mexico 0.65% 5 4 0 0
New York 6.16% 29 33 0 0
North Carolina 3.12% 15 17 15 17
North Dakota 0.24% 3 1 3 1
Ohio 3.61% 18 19 18 19
Oklahoma 1.22% 7 7 7 7
Oregon 1.25% 7 7 0 0
Pennsylvania 3.98% 20 21 20 21
Rhode Island 0.33% 4 2 0 0
South Carolina 1.52% 9 8 9 8
South Dakota 0.27% 3 2 3 2
Tennessee 2.05% 11 11 11 11
Texas 8.55% 38 46 38 46
Utah 0.93% 6 5 6 5
Vermont 0.19% 3 1 0 0
Virginia 2.61% 13 14 0 0
Washington 2.23% 12 12 0 0
West Virginia 0.57% 5 3 5 3
Wisconsin 1.80% 10 10 10 10
Wyoming 0.18% 3 1 3 1
Total 538 538 306 303

tags: elections,