Currently, there are 538 electoral votes in the Electoral College, and a presidential candidate needs 270 to win, according to information provided by the Office of the Federal Register website. Some Americans don’t know exactly how the number of Electoral College votes are allocated to each state. The Office of the Federal Register explains that online too.
“Your state’s entitled allotment of electors equals the number of members in its Congressional delegation: one for each member in the House of Representatives plus two for your Senators.”
In recent weeks, many Americans learned for the first time that the winner of the presidency is not necessarily the winner of the popular vote and have called the Electoral College an offense to democracy. In Article II of the Constitution, instructions are given on how the president of the United States is chosen.
“Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors, equal to the whole Number of Senators and Representatives to which the State may be entitled in the Congress: but no Senator or Representative, or Person holding an Office of Trust or Profit under the United States, shall be appointed an Elector.”
Obviously, eliminating the implications of Article II from the Constitution isn’t easily done, and an amendment like that almost certainly wouldn’t be achieved with the new members of Congress, but it might be interesting to see what an Electoral College might look like if the Founding Fathers had decided to grant each state the same number of electors as the number of representatives that that state is granted in the House.
See, states are allocated House representation loosely proportionate to population. In 1941, Congress adopted the “Method of Equal Proportion” to determine House seat apportionment. The U.S. Census Bureau explains the method of computing apportionment in greater detail on its website. If the men creating the Constitution had used the number of House seats for elector allocation instead of the number of House and Senate seats, how would it have affected the outcome of the 2016 election? Would it be more closely aligned with the popular vote?
I propose we take a look at what that alternative electorate would look like.
This Electoral College would have a total of 436 electoral votes, and the magic number of Electoral College votes needed to win the majority would end up being 219 votes, as shown in the table below.
Please note that District of Columbia residents have no representation in the United States Senate, but the Twenty-Third Amendment to the Constitution currently entitles the District of Columbia to three electoral votes. It also caps the number of electors as equal to the number of Electoral College voters that is granted to the least populous state, according to the text of the amendment found on Cornell University Law School’s website.
“The District constituting the seat of government of the United States shall appoint in such manner as the Congress may direct:
“A number of electors of President and Vice President equal to the whole number of Senators and Representatives in Congress to which the District would be entitled if it were a state, but in no event more than the least populous state; they shall be in addition to those appointed by the states, but they shall be considered, for the purposes of the election of President and Vice President, to be electors appointed by a state; and they shall meet in the District and perform such duties as provided by the twelfth article of amendment.”
The D.C. Board of Elections currently serves just over 400,000 registered voters.
As you can see from the table above, if the Electoral College had been designed such that the number of electors granted to each state was equal to the number of representatives the state send to the U.S. House of Representatives, rather than to both the House and the Senate, the total electorate would be significantly smaller. As stated before, there would be 436 electors in total rather than 538. Currently, a presidential candidate must attain 270 electoral votes in order to win the majority and the presidency, but in this alternative scenario, a candidate would only need to win 219 electoral votes to win the majority and the presidency.
The table above shows the winning party of each state from the 2016 elections by highlighting the cells of the table with the party’s traditional color. The state vote totals that are in blue will have electors for the Democratic Party casting their votes. The state vote totals that are in red will have electors for the Republican Party casting their votes. The single state vote total that is in purple (Maine) will have both parties represented.
The Office of the Federal Register lists the date that the Electoral College members are set to cast their votes as December 19, 2016. Although there have been reports that an apparent discovery by the CIA could alter the timeline for the Electoral College this year, for now, the alleged potential for delay is still speculatory.
Although neither candidate has managed to gather a majority of the popular vote itself, Hillary Clinton is currently leading in the popular vote contest. Trump is leading in presumed Electoral College votes at this time. There have been reports of possible faithless electors, calling themselves Hamilton Electors, altering the presumed electoral vote, but for the purpose of this discussion, I use the presumed electoral college votes as indicated by CNN. There are 306 Republican electors and there are 232 Democratic electors. Currently, Donald Trump is presumed to have 306 electoral votes and Hillary Clinton is presumed to have 232 electoral votes. We probably will not know the actual electoral vote count until the votes are officially read at a joint session of Congress after the new year before the new House and Senate members, but if Electoral College voters vote in accordance with the popular votes of their own states, Hillary Clinton would be down 38 electors. Trump would be up 36 electors.
What would the 2016 Electoral College results look like if our Founding Fathers had decided that the Electoral College should be reflective of the delegation from the House only, rather than the delegation from all of Congress? Let’s take a look.
So, even if the Electoral College was only equal to the number of members each state sends to the U.S. House of Representatives, there would still be a majority of electors from the Republican party voting on December 19. Still, this fictitious and alternative Electoral College would more closely align with the national popular vote. Additionally, those Hamilton Electors would have to sway fewer of their fellow electors if the Electoral College had been designed to reflect the number of seats that each individual state gets in the House alone.
[Featured Image by MiQ1969/iStock]