How Much Racism Is Mathematically Baked Into The Electoral College? Quite A Bit.
A cartogram depicting the proportional county results of the 2016 election.Credit: M. E. J. Newman
November 27, 2016

Hillary Clinton now leads the popular vote by over 2 million in an election that she lost. Hillary trounced Trump, as Democrats usually do, among nonwhite voters. This begs the question of whether the Electoral College stacks the deck in favor of whites.

The Electoral College favors low-population states to high-population states by giving all states 2 electoral votes as a gimme*, regardless of population — and most low population states skew white. I sought to quantify the extent that the Electoral College empowers or disempowers white, hispanic and black populations due to their geographical concentrations in populous states.

This has nothing to do with swing states, 538’s Voter Power Index, or other factors based on a state’s importance in tipping a close election due to having relatively even political divisions. The notion that California’s voters “don’t count” nationally because the state is never in play is bogus — Republicans have to start elections making up for 55 electoral votes because CA is safely blue, Democrats have to make up for Texas’s 38 because it’s safely red, etc. My concern is strictly about the amount of racial bias that is mathematically baked into Electoral College due to the demographics of certain states relative to their electoral weight.

The problem I am attempting to quantify is best understood by seeing how it would look in the extreme. Let’s invent a country called Electorostan. Electorostan has a population of 200 people divided into two states, named Blue and Red. This country uses the Electoral College.

Blue: Population 175, 10% white, 90% black, 7 electoral votes
Red: Population 25, 90% white, 10% black, 3 electoral votes
(this ratio of electoral votes to relative population is roughly the same as that of Vermont (3) and Oregon (7))

In this scenario, each electoral vote is supposed to represent 20 people, but because of the distribution of electoral votes, one of Red’s represents 8.33 people, whereas one of Blue’s represents 25 people. Since Blue is 90% black, those voters control 6.3 electoral votes, and its white population controls 0.7. In Red, their small black population controls 0.3 electoral votes, and the white population controls 2.7. Thus, whites in Electorostan are represented by 3.4 out of 10 electoral votes (34%) despite only being 20% of the population and blacks are represented by 6.6 electoral votes (66%) despite being 80% of the population.

A black person in Red is represented as well as a white person in Red, and better than a white person in Blue — just as one of Wyoming’s few black residents enjoys more than triple the electoral power than a white resident of California does, but on the whole blacks in Electorostan are disempowered — an average black vote is worth just over half of a white vote.

I took these same concepts and applied them to 2010 census data and Electoral College allocations for all 50 states — same idea, more numbers. America does in fact have this problem — it’s not as extreme as in our made-up nation, but here’s what I found:
Racial Imbalance In The Electoral College (.pdf)

If electoral votes were divided evenly, each one would represent 583,305 people. A fair electoral representation is 1/538,305 of an electoral vote per person. I refer to this as a Real Vote.

  • On average, a white person has 1.0214 Real Votes, or 102.14% of a fair electoral representation — a 2.14% edge.
  • On average, nonwhites as a whole have 0.9625 Real Votes, or 96.25% of a fair electoral representation — a 3.75% disadvantage.
  • On average, a hispanic voter has 0.9322 Real Votes, or 93.22% of a fair electoral representation — a 6.78% disadvantage.
  • On average, a black voter has 0.976 Real Votes, or 97.6% of a fair electoral representation — a 2.4% disadvantage.
  • A white vote is worth on average 6.1% more than an average nonwhite vote, 9.6% more than a hispanic vote, and 4.7% more than a black vote.
  • A CA resident has 0.84 Real Votes, whereas a WY resident has 3.04 Real Votes (much has been made of this disparity already). Wyoming is 85.9% white, California is only 40.1% white.

A majority of Trump supporters believe that racial discrimination harms whites more than minority groups.

Now that their man has been elected president based on a system that gives white voters a 6.1% bonus, they should stop believing that nonsense.

*all states have a minimum of 3 electoral votes, the 2 I refer to as "gimmes" are the 2 granted for each state's senators.

This article was crossposted with permission by the author from

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