Rural States Are Almost Entirely Ignored Under Current State-by-State System

Under the current state-by-state winner-take all method of awarding electoral votes, presidential candidates ignore states where they are safely ahead or hopelessly behind.  Thus, political influence in the Electoral College is based on whether the state is a closely divided battleground state.  

According to the 2010 census, the 10 states with the highest percentage of rural residents are

  • Maine–61%
  • Vermont–61%
  • West Virginia–51%
  • Mississippi–51%
  • Montana–44%
  • Arkansas–44%
  • South Dakota43%
  • Kentucky–42%
  • Alabama–41%
  • North Dakota–40%

However, none of the 10 most rural states were closely divided battleground states in either the 2012 or 2016 presidential election. Thus, none of these 10 states received any general-election campaign visits.

Moreover, only five states of the 25 most rural states received any general-election campaign visits during the 2012 and 2016 presidential election, namely New Hampshire (12th most rural), Iowa (the 13th most rural), North Carolina (the 16th most rural), Wisconsin (the 20th most rural), and Minnesota (the 25th most rural). 

In short, rural states are almost entirely ignored by the current state-by-state winner-take-all method of awarding electoral votes.

In the table below, column 2 shows each state’s total population.  Column 3 shows the state’s urban-suburban population.  Column 4 shows the state’s rural population.  Column 5 shows the percentage of the state’s population that is rural (column 4 divided by column 2).  Column 6 shows the state’s “rural index”—obtained by dividing the state’s rural percentage by the overall national rural percentage of 19.27%.  An index above 100 indicates that the state is more rural than the nation as a whole, whereas an index below 100 indicates that the state is less rural.  The states appear in the table in order of rural index—from most rural state to least rural.

State

Total population

Urban-suburban  population

Rural population

Rural percent

Index

Maine

1,328,361

513,542

814,819

61%

318

Vermont

625,741

243,385

382,356

61%

317

West Virginia

1,852,994

902,810

950,184

51%

266

Mississippi

2,967,297

1,464,224

1,503,073

51%

263

Montana

989,415

553,014

436,401

44%

229

Arkansas

2,915,918

1,637,589

1,278,329

44%

228

South Dakota

814,180

461,247

352,933

43%

225

Kentucky

4,339,367

2,533,343

1,806,024

42%

216

Alabama

4,779,736

2,821,804

1,957,932

41%

213

North Dakota

672,591

402,872

269,719

40%

208

N.H.

1,316,470

793,872

522,598

40%

206

Iowa

3,046,355

1,950,256

1,096,099

36%

187

Wyoming

563,626

364,993

198,633

35%

183

Alaska

710,231

468,893

241,338

34%

176

North Carolina

9,535,483

6,301,756

3,233,727

34%

176

Oklahoma

3,751,351

2,485,029

1,266,322

34%

175

South Carolina

4,625,364

3,067,809

1,557,555

34%

175

Tennessee

6,346,105

4,213,245

2,132,860

34%

174

Wisconsin

5,686,986

3,989,638

1,697,348

30%

155

Missouri

5,988,927

4,218,371

1,770,556

30%

153

Idaho

1,567,582

1,106,370

461,212

29%

153

Indiana

6,483,802

4,697,100

1,786,702

28%

143

Nebraska

1,826,341

1,335,686

490,655

27%

139

Louisiana

4,533,372

3,317,805

1,215,567

27%

139

Minnesota

5,303,925

3,886,311

1,417,614

27%

139

Kansas

2,853,118

2,116,961

736,157

26%

134

Michigan

9,883,640

7,369,957

2,513,683

25%

132

Georgia

9,687,653

7,272,151

2,415,502

25%

129

Virginia

8,001,024

6,037,094

1,963,930

25%

127

New Mexico

2,059,179

1,594,361

464,818

23%

117

Ohio

11,536,504

8,989,694

2,546,810

22%

115

Pennsylvania

12,702,379

9,991,287

2,711,092

21%

111

Oregon

3,831,074

3,104,382

726,692

19%

98

Delaware

897,934

747,949

149,985

17%

87

Washington

6,724,540

5,651,869

1,072,671

16%

83

Texas

25,145,561

21,298,039

3,847,522

15%

79

Colorado

5,029,196

4,332,761

696,435

14%

72

Maryland

5,773,552

5,034,331

739,221

13%

66

New York

19,378,102

17,028,105

2,349,997

12%

63

Connecticut

3,574,097

3,144,942

429,155

12%

62

Illinois

12,830,632

11,353,553

1,477,079

12%

60

Arizona

6,392,017

5,740,659

651,358

10%

53

Utah

2,763,885

2,503,595

260,290

9%

49

Rhode Island

1,052,567

955,043

97,524

9%

48

Florida

18,801,310

17,139,844

1,661,466

9%

46

Hawaii

1,360,301

1,250,489

109,812

8%

42

Massachusetts

6,547,629

6,021,989

525,640

8%

42

Nevada

2,700,551

2,543,797

156,754

6%

30

New Jersey

8,791,894

8,324,126

467,768

5%

28

California

37,253,956

35,373,606

1,880,350

5%

26

D.C.

601,723

601,723

0

0%

0

Total

308,745,538

249,253,271

59,492,267

19.27%

100