Analysis of the Whole-Number Proportional Method of Awarding Electoral Votes

Under the whole-number proportional method for awarding electoral votes, states would enact laws dividing their electoral votes in proportion to each candidate’s share of the popular vote in their state, in whole-number increments. Note that this whole-number division is what distinguishes this method from the very different fractional proportional (Lodge-Gossett) method.  

The whole-number proportional method may initially sound attractive.  However, it would operate in a number of unexpected and undesirable ways.  

  • Although one might think that the whole-number proportional approach would give presidential candidates a reason to campaign in all 50 states, candidates would only campaign in about half the states. 
  • In the 26 or so states where candidates would actually campaign, the whole-number proportional approach would almost always be a battle for just one electoral vote per state—thus putting only about 26 electoral votes (out of 538) into play.  
  • Winning the one available electoral vote in the 26 or so “battleground” states would take only a few thousand popular votes in some low-population states, but tens of thousands of votes in bigger states—thus making votes unequal in different states.
  • The whole-number proportional approach would not necessarily deliver victory to the candidate receiving the most popular votes nationwide, because four of the last seven elections (1992, 1996, 2000, 2016) would have been thrown in the U.S. House of Representatives where each state has one vote in electing the President.
  • Enactment of the whole number proportional approach on a state-by-state basis would penalize early adopters and quickly become a self-arresting process, because each enactment would increase the influence of the remaining winner-take-all states.
  • The whole-number proportional approach was placed on the ballot by an initiative petition considered by Colorado voters in the November 2004 election (Amendment 36), but was defeated. 
  • If the courts accept the theory that the winner-take-all rule is unconstitutional on a statewide and congressional-district basis, the whole number proportional approach would necessarily also be unconstitutional, because each state’s final electoral vote is allocated on what is equivalent to a winner-take-all basis.

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