9.31 Myths that a Nationwide Vote for President would Favor One Political Party Over the Other

9.31.1 MYTH: The Republican Party would find it difficult to win the most votes nationwide.

QUICK ANSWER:

  • Nationwide voting for President would not be advantageous to either political party because, politically, the United States is an evenly divided country.
  • The cumulative nationwide presidential vote for the two parties in the 20 presidential elections between 1932 and 2008 has been virtually tied—a grand total of 746,260,766 votes for the Democrats and 745,502,654 for the Republicans.
  • The Republican Party has fared well in terms of the national popular vote. Since the formation of the Republican Party, nine Republicans have won more than 53% of the national popular vote, namely Ulysses Grant, Theodore Roosevelt, Warren Harding, Calvin Coolidge, Herbert Hoover, Dwight Eisenhower, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, and George H.W. Bush, whereas only two Democrats have done so (Franklin Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson).
  • The candidate who is best aligned with the views and values of the country’s voters generally wins the national popular vote.

If Democrats had an inherent advantage in winning the national popular vote for President, we would see some evidence of this tendency in the historical record.

The United States is, politically, an evenly divided country in which the cumulative nationwide vote for the two parties from the start of the modern political era in 1932 through 2008 (table 9.25) has been virtually tied:

  • 746,260,766 total votes for the Democrats and
  • 745,502,654 total votes for the Republicans.

Table 9.25 shows the national popular vote for President between 1932 and 2008. Columns 4 and 5 show the Democratic and Republican margin, respectively, in each election.

Table 9.25 The national popular vote for President 1932–2008

Election
Democrat
Republican
D margin
R margin
1932
22,818,740
15,760,426
7,058,314
 
1936
27,750,866
16,679,683
11,071,183
 
1940
27,343,218
22,334,940
5,008,278
 
1944
25,612,610
22,021,053
3,591,557
 
1948
24,105,810
21,970,064
2,135,746
 
1952
27,314,992
33,777,945
 
6,462,953
1956
26,022,752
35,590,472
 
9,567,720
1960
34,226,731
34,108,157
118,574
 
1964
43,129,566
27,178,188
15,951,378
 
1968
31,275,166
31,785,480
 
510,314
1972
29,170,383
47,169,911
 
17,999,528
1976
40,830,763
39,147,793
1,682,970
 
1980
35,483,883
43,904,153
 
8,420,270
1984
37,577,185
54,455,075
 
16,877,890
1988
41,809,074
48,886,097
 
7,077,023
1992
44,909,326
39,103,882
5,805,444
 
1996
47,402,357
39,198,755
8,203,602
 
2000
50,992,335
50,455,156
537,179
 
2004
59,028,111
62,040,610
 
3,012,499
2008
69,456,898
59,934,814
9,522,084
 
Total
746,260,766
745,502,654
 
 
 

The Republican Party has fared well in terms of the national popular vote. Since the formation of the Republican Party, nine Republicans have won more than 53% of the national popular vote, namely Ulysses Grant, Theodore Roosevelt, Warren Harding, Calvin Coolidge, Herbert Hoover, Dwight Eisenhower, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, and George H.W. Bush, whereas only two Democrats have done so (Franklin Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson).

Based on past performance, there is nothing to indicate the Republican Party is either advantaged or disadvantaged if presidential elections are decided on the basis of the national popular vote.

The candidate who is best aligned with the views and values of the country’s voters generally wins the national popular vote.

Former Congressman and presidential candidate Tom Tancredo (R–Colorado) said in an article entitled “Should Every Vote Count?”

“There is another reason why I have come to support the concept of the National Popular Vote Initiative. I believe, as do many of my readers, we are a center-right nation.”[555]

Those who believe that the United States is inherently a center-right country should expect center-right results from a national popular vote for President. Those who believe that there is no bias in the national popular vote—including the authors of this book—should prefer a level playing field that eliminates the gaming of the system inherent in presidential campaigns that concentrate on only a handful of closely divided battleground states.

9.31.2 MYTH: Republican voters do not support a national popular vote.

QUICK ANSWER:

  • Republican voters support a national popular vote for President by an average of 66% in states where state-level polls are available.

Republican voters support the idea of a national popular vote for President by an average of 66% in 35 states where state-level polls are available.

Table 9.26 shows the results, by party, from these polls.[556]

Table 9.26 Results, by party, from state-level polls

State
Republican
Democratic
Other
Overall
Alaska
66%
78%
69%
70%
Arizona
60%
79%
57%
67%
Arkansas
71%
88%
79%
80%
California
61%
76%
74%
70%
Colorado
56%
79%
70%
68%
Connecticut
67%
80%
71%
74%
Delaware
69%
79%
76%
75%
D.C.
48%
80%
74%
76%
Florida
68%
88%
76%
78%
Idaho
75%
84%
75%
77%
Iowa
63%
82%
77%
75%
Kentucky
71%
88%
70%
80%
Maine
70%
85%
73%
77%
Massachusetts
54%
82%
66%
73%
Michigan
68%
78%
73%
73%
Minnesota
69%
84%
68%
75%
Mississippi
75%
79%
75%
77%
Montana
67%
80%
70%
72%
Nebraska
62%
78%
63%
67%
Nevada
66%
80%
68%
72%
New Hampshire
57%
80%
69%
69%
New Mexico
64%
84%
68%
76%
New York
66%
86%
70%
79%
Ohio
65%
81%
61%
70%
Oklahoma
75%
84%
75%
81%
Oregon
70%
82%
72%
76%
Pennsylvania
68%
87%
76%
78%
South Carolina
64%
81%
68%
71%
South Dakota
67%
84%
75%
75%
Utah
66%
82%
75%
70%
Vermont
61%
86%
74%
75%
Washington
65%
88%
73%
77%
West Virginia
75%
87%
73%
81%
Wisconsin
63%
81%
67%
71%
Wyoming
66%
77%
72%
69%
Average
66%
82%
71%
74%

9.31.3 MYTH: The small states give the Republican Party an advantage in presidential elections.

QUICK ANSWER:

  • Contrary to political mythology, the Republican Party gains no partisan advantage from the 13 smallest states (i.e., those with three or four electoral votes) under the current state-by-state winner-take-all system. In the six presidential elections between 1992 and 2012, the 13 smallest states have divided 7–6 in favor of the Democrats four times, 8–5 in favor of the Democrats once, and 7–6 in favor of the Republicans once.
  • Seven of the 13 smallest states have almost always gone Democratic (Hawaii, Vermont, Maine, Rhode Island, Delaware, the District of Columbia, and New Hampshire), while six others have almost always gone Republican (Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, North Dakota, and South Dakota).
  • The pattern is similar for the 25 smallest states (i.e., those with seven or fewer electoral votes). The 25 smallest states divided 13–12 in favor of the Republicans in 2008 and 2012. They divided 57–58 in terms of electoral votes in 2008 and 60–56 in 2012. In 2008, the 25 smallest states were approximately tied in popular votes, with the Democrats receiving about 10 million votes, compared to the Republican’s 9.8 million votes. In 2012, the Republicans led by 10.1 million to 9.2 million.

The myth that the small states (i.e., those with three or four electoral votes) confer a partisan advantage on the Republican Party is prevalent because it was once true. However, this statement is not true today, and it has not been true for two decades.

In the 1960s and 1970s, most of the 13 smallest states usually voted Republican in most presidential elections. During that period, Rhode Island, Hawaii, and the District of Columbia were usually the only small jurisdictions that voted Democratic.

However, in the six presidential elections in the two-decade period between 1992 and 2012, seven of the 13 smallest states have gone Democratic (with only one exception in 2000[557]), namely

  • Delaware,
  • the District of Columbia,
  • Hawaii,
  • Maine,
  • New Hampshire,
  • Rhode Island, and
  • Vermont.

During the same two-decade period, six of the 13 smallest states have gone Republican (with only one exception in 1992[558]), namely

  • Alaska,
  • Idaho,
  • Montana,
  • North Dakota,
  • South Dakota, and
  • Wyoming.

Only one of the 13 smallest states (New Hampshire) has been a closely divided battleground state during this two-decade period. Although it has been hotly contested, New Hampshire has ended up supporting the Democratic nominee in five of the six elections between 1992 and 2012.

Curiously, the Democratic presidential candidate has sometimes enjoyed a distinct political advantage among the small states because of the state-by-state winner-take-all system.

In 2004, Senator John Kerry won more electoral votes than President George W. Bush in the 13 smallest states (25 for Kerry to 19 for Bush), despite the fact that Kerry received only about two-thirds as many popular votes as Bush (453,286 for Kerry and 650,421 for Bush).

Table 9.27 shows the 2004 presidential election results in the six reliably Republican small states. The table shows that George W. Bush’s 650,421-vote lead in the six reliably Republican small states yielded him 19 electoral votes.

Table 9.27 Bush’s 650,421-vote lead in the six reliably Republican small states yielded 19 electoral votes.

State
Bush
Kerry
Bush lead
Electoral Votes
Alaska
151,876
86,064
65,812
3
Idaho
408,254
180,920
227,334
4
Montana
265,473
173,363
92,110
3
North Dakota
195,998
110,662
85,336
3
South Dakota
232,545
149,225
83,320
3
Wyoming
167,129
70,620
96,509
3
Total
1,421,275
770,854
650,421
19
 

Table 9.28 shows the 2004 presidential election results in the seven usually-Democratic small states. The table shows that John Kerry’s 453,286-vote lead yielded him 25 electoral votes. In other words, Kerry won more electoral votes than Bush with considerably fewer popular votes.

Table 9.28 Kerry’s 453,286 vote lead in the seven usually Democratic small states yielded 25 electoral votes.

State
Bush
Kerry
Kerry lead
Electoral Votes
Delaware
171,531
199,887
28,356
3
D.C.
19,007
183,876
164,869
3
Hawaii
194,109
231,318
37,209
4
Maine
330,374
395,391
65,017
4
New Hampshire
331,237
340,511
9,274
4
Rhode Island
161,654
247,407
85,753
4
Vermont
120,710
183,621
62,911
3
Total
997,385
1,441,500
453,286
25
 

The reason for this outcome under the current winner-take-all system is that the small red states are redder than the small blue states are blue.

Specifically, the popular-vote percentages in the reliably Republican six small states in 2004 were uniformly overwhelming:

  • Alaska–64%,
  • Idaho–69%,
  • Montana–61%,
  • North Dakota–64%,
  • South Dakota–61%, and
  • Wyoming–70%.

In contrast, the Democrats won three of their small states (Delaware, Hawaii, and Maine) with just 54% of the vote.[559] In addition, the Democrats carried two of their small states (Vermont and Rhode Island) with only 60% of the vote—a percentage smaller than the percentage by which the Republicans carried any of their six small states. The District of Columbia (with three electoral votes) is the only small jurisdiction where the Democrats won by an overwhelming margin. The Democrats won the battleground state of New Hampshire by a 2% margin in 2004.

Overall, an enormous number of Republican votes in the small states were wasted because of the overwhelming victory margins in the six reliably Republican small states, compared to the Democrat’s modest margins of victory in their states. This can be seen by pairing each of the six Republican states with one of the Democratic states.

  • Wyoming’s 96,509-vote Republican margin exceeded Vermont’s 62,911-vote Democratic margin.
  • Alaska’s 65,812-vote Republican margin exceeded Delaware’s 28,356-vote Democratic margin.
  • North Dakota’s 85,336-vote Republican margin exceeded Hawaii’s 37,209-vote Democratic margin.
  • Montana’s 92,110-vote Republican margin exceeded Rhode Island’s 85,753-vote Democratic margin.
  • South Dakota’s 83,320-vote Republican margin exceeded Maine’s 65,017-vote Democratic margin.
  • Idaho’s 227,334-vote Republican margin exceeded the District of Columbia’s 164,869-vote Democratic margin.

To place the magnitude of these wasted Republican votes into perspective, consider the fact that George W. Bush’s margin of 227,334 votes in 2004 in Idaho alone was almost twice his margin of 118,599 votes in the crucial and decisive state of Ohio. Presidential candidates of both parties vigorously solicited votes in Ohio on the basis of Ohio issues and values because Ohio voters were important, while they ignored Idaho issues and values.

Even if one expands the discussion from the nation’s 13 smallest states (i.e., those with three or four electoral votes) to the 25 smallest states (i.e., those with seven or fewer electoral votes), the Republican Party receives no partisan advantage under the state-by-state winner-take-all system.

In the 2008 election, the 25 smallest states

  • divided 12–13 by party,
  • divided 57–58 in electoral votes, and
  • the Democrats led with 9,965,724 votes (compared to the Republicans’ 9,821,558 votes).

Table 9.29 shows that the 25 smallest states divided almost equally in 2008 in terms of number of states won, electoral votes, and the popular vote. Column 1 shows each state’s number of electoral votes (EV). Columns 3 and 4 show the number of popular votes won by the Democrats (D) and the Republicans (R), respectively. Columns 5 and 6 show the number of electoral votes won by the Democrats and the Republicans, respectively.[560] Columns 7 and 8 show the Democratic and Republican margins, respectively, for each state that the party carried. Column 9 shows the number of campaign events (a total of 43) out of 300 post-convention events in these states in 2008.

Table 9.29 The 25 smallest states divided almost equally in 2008.

EV
State
D Votes
R Votes
D EV
R EV
D Margin
R Margin
Events
3
Wyoming
82,868
164,958
 
3
 
82,090
 
3
North Dakota
141,278
168,601
 
3
 
27,323
 
3
Alaska
123,594
193,841
 
3
 
70,247
 
3
South Dakota
170,924
203,054
 
3
 
32,130
 
3
Montana
231,667
242,763
 
3
 
11,096
 
3
Vermont
219,262
98,974
3
 
120,288
 
 
3
D.C.
245,800
17,367
3
 
228,433
 
1
3
Delaware
255,459
152,374
3
 
103,085
 
 
4
Hawaii
325,871
120,566
4
 
205,305
 
 
4
Rhode Island
296,571
165,391
4
 
131,180
 
 
4
Maine
421,923
295,273
4
 
126,650
 
2
4
New Hampshire
384,826
316,534
4
 
68,292
 
12
4
Idaho
236,440
403,012
 
4
 
166,572
 
5
Nebraska
333,319
452,979
1
4
 
119,660
 
5
West Virginia
303,857
397,466
 
5
 
93,609
1
5
Utah
327,670
596,030
 
5
 
268,360
 
5
New Mexico
472,422
346,832
5
 
125,590
 
8
5
Nevada
533,736
412,827
5
 
120,909
 
12
6
Arkansas
422,310
638,017
 
6
 
215,707
 
6
Kansas
514,765
699,655
 
6
 
184,890
 
6
Mississippi
554,662
724,597
 
6
 
169,935
 
7
Oklahoma
502,496
960,165
 
7
 
457,669
 
7
Iowa
828,940
682,379
7
 
146,561
 
7
7
Connecticut
997,773
629,428
7
 
368,345
 
 
7
Oregon
1,037,291
738,475
7
 
298,816
 
 
115
Total
9,965,724
9,821,558
57
58
 
 
43
 

In the 2012 election, the 25 smallest states

  • divided 12–13 by party (exactly the same states and numbers),
  • divided 60–56 in electoral votes, and
  • the Republicans led with 10,098,119 votes (compared to the Democrats’ 9,221,230 votes).

Table 9.30 shows that the 25 smallest states divided almost equally in 2012 in terms of number of states won, electoral votes, and the popular vote. Column 9 shows the number of campaign events (a total of 53) out of 253 post-convention events in these states in 2012.

Table 9.30 The 25 smallest states divided almost equally in 2012.

EV
State
D Votes
R Votes
D EV
R EV
D Margin
R Margin
Events
3
Alaska
122,640
164,676
 
3
 
42,036
 
3
Delaware
242,584
165,484
3
 
77,100
 
 
3
D.C.
267,070
21,381
3
 
245,689
 
 
3
Montana
201,839
267,928
 
3
 
66,089
 
3
North Dakota
124,966
188,320
 
3
 
63,354
 
3
South Dakota
145,039
210,610
 
3
 
65,571
 
3
Vermont
199,239
92,698
3
 
106,541
 
 
3
Wyoming
69,286
170,962
 
3
 
101,676
 
4
Hawaii
306,658
121,015
4
 
185,643
 
 
4
Idaho
212,787
420,911
 
4
 
208,124
 
4
Maine
401,306
292,276
4
 
109,030
 
 
4
New Hampshire
369,561
329,918
4
 
39,643
 
13
4
Rhode Island
279,677
157,204
4
 
122,473
 
 
5
Nebraska
302,081
475,064
 
5
 
172,983
 
5
New Mexico
415,335
335,788
5
 
79,547
 
 
5
West Virginia
238,230
417,584
 
5
 
179,354
 
6
Arkansas
394,409
647,744
 
6
 
253,335
 
6
Iowa
822,544
730,617
6
 
91,927
 
27
6
Kansas
440,726
692,634
 
6
 
251,908
 
6
Mississippi
562,949
710,746
 
6
 
147,797
 
6
Nevada
531,373
463,567
6
 
67,806
 
13
6
Utah
251,813
740,600
 
6
 
488,787
 
7
Connecticut
905,083
634,892
7
 
270,191
 
 
7
Oklahoma
443,547
891,325
 
7
 
447,778
 
7
Oregon
970,488
754,175
7
 
216,313
 
 
116
Total
9,221,230
10,098,119
56
60
 
 
53
 

Appendices CC, DD, and EE show the popular vote for President for 2000, 2004, and 2008, respectively. Appendix HH shows the 2012 results.

Former Congressman and presidential candidate Tom Tancredo (R–Colorado) wrote the following in an article entitled “Should Every Vote Count?”

“Today the chase for electoral votes is a force for corruption and special-interest payoffs. I will never forget the torture of sitting in the House and watching as our ‘leadership’ went about threatening, bribing and breaking arms of my colleagues until they got the requisite number of votes to pass Bush’s trillion-dollar Medicare prescription drug plan. A bigger piece of garbage I have never seen—especially one being pushed by the Republican Party.
“One could rationally ask why, in heaven’s name, the party of smaller government would push so hard for what was, at the time, the biggest increase in government since the creation of Medicare. Alas the reason was crystal clear: Bush needed Florida for his re-election.
“I wish I could say that was the only time something like that happened, but, of course, it’s not. It is part of the routine practice of buying electoral votes. I am sick of it. Whether it's buying Pennsylvania’s electoral votes with steel tariffs or Ohio’s with ‘No Child Left Behind,’ it all stinks to high heaven.…
“Some argue that the present system protects the interests of small states, especially those that hold conservative values. However, today 12 of the 13 smallest states are ignored after party conventions and are derisively referred to as ‘flyover’ country.…
Under the [National Popular Vote] plan, an evangelical voter in rural Wyoming would count the same as the union steward in Cleveland.”[561] [Emphasis added]

9.31.4 MYTH: The National Popular Vote effort is funded by left-wingers.

QUICK ANSWER:

  • Over 90% of the contributions supporting the National Popular Vote effort have come—in about equal total amounts—from a pro-life, anti-Buffett-rule, registered Republican businessman and a pro-choice, pro-Buffett-rule, registered Democratic businessman.

Hans von Spakovsky has stated:

“National Popular Vote Inc. is one of California’s lesser-known advocacy organizations. Its chairman, John Koza, is best known as the co-founder of Scientific Games Inc., the company that invented the instant lottery ticket.
“Now Mr. Koza and his fellow liberal activists want to ‘scratch off’ the Electoral College.”[562] [Emphasis added]

The facts are that over 90% of the contributions supporting the National Popular Vote effort have come—in about equal total amounts—from

  • Tom Golisano (a pro-life, anti-Buffett-rule, registered Republican businessman residing in Florida) and
  • John R. Koza (a pro-choice, pro-Buffett-rule, registered Democratic businessman residing in California).

John R. Koza’s contributions have largely been spent by National Popular Vote, a 501(c)4 non-profit corporation.

Tom Golisano’s contributions have largely been spent by Support Popular Vote, a 501(c)4 non-profit corporation (originally called “National Popular Vote Initiative”).

Support for a nationwide popular vote for President has been bipartisan for some time. Appendix S shows, state by state, members of Congress who have sponsored proposed constitutional amendments for nationwide popular election of the President in recent years or who voted in favor of constitutional amendments in the 338–70 roll call in the House of Representatives in 1969 or the 1979 roll call in the Senate. As shown in appendix S, there has been at least one supporter in Congress from each of the 50 states. As of 2012, over 250 Republican state legislators have either sponsored or cast a recorded vote in favor of the National Popular Vote bill. See section 9.31.2 for recent state-level polling results showing that Republican voters support a nationwide vote for President.

9.31.5 MYTH: The long-term trend in the Electoral College favors the Republicans because Republican-leaning states have gained electoral votes with each recent census.

QUICK ANSWER:

  • The fact that Republican-leaning states have gained population with each recent census is not necessarily helpful to the Republican cause. Population growth may upset a state’s political complexion depending on the relative number of newcomers and leavers and the (usually very significant) difference in political outlook between newcomers and leavers.
  • Recent rapid population growth in Virginia, North Carolina, Colorado, Nevada, and Florida was not helpful to the Republican cause because it converted states that had voted Republican for decades in presidential elections into battleground states (all won by Obama in 2008).
  • Arizona’s recent rapid population growth (largely due to an influx of Hispanics and, to a lesser extent, former California residents) has the potential of changing Arizona from a reliably Republican state into a battleground state (perhaps as soon as 2016 or 2020).
  • Texas’ recent rapid population growth (largely due to Hispanics) has the potential of changing Texas from a reliably Republican state in presidential elections into a battleground state (perhaps as soon as 2020).

As a result of each recent census, Republican-leaning states have gained population (and hence electoral votes) at the expense of Democratic-leaning states. Some have argued that this fact should be interpreted as a long-term trend favoring the Republican Party in the Electoral College. In fact, this trend is not necessarily helpful to the Republican cause.

Consider the 2010 census. The Republican Party would have received 12 more electoral votes in the 2008 presidential election if the allocation of electoral votes based on the 2010 census had been in effect for the 2008 election. Five states that voted Republican in the 2008 presidential election gained electoral votes as a result of the 2010 census, namely Arizona (+1), Georgia (+1), South Carolina (+1), Utah (+1), and Texas (+4), but only two states that voted Republican in 2008 lost electoral votes, namely Louisiana (–1) and Missouri (–1). In addition, eight states that voted Democratic in the 2008 presidential election lost electoral votes as a result of the 2010 census, namely Illinois (–1), Iowa (–1), Massachusetts (–1), Michigan (–1), New Jersey (–1), New York (–2), Ohio (–2), and Pennsylvania (–1), but only three states that voted Democratic in 2008 gained electoral votes, namely Florida (+2), Nevada (+1), and Washington state (+1).[563]

The above facts about the census do not, however, constitute a long-term trend favoring the Republicans in the Electoral College because population growth does not necessarily reinforce a state’s pre-existing political complexion. In fact, population growth frequently upsets a state’s political complexion.

Population growth occurs as the result of a net difference in the number of newcomers versus the number of leavers.

There is usually a considerable difference in the political outlook of

  • newcomers to a state,
  • leavers, and
  • those staying in a state.

People come to a state, leave a state, and stay in a state because of numerous economic, demographic, and psychological factors. As a result, population growth is not necessarily advantageous to the currently dominant political party in a given state.

For example, Florida, Virginia, Colorado, Nevada, and North Carolina were reliably Republican for decades in presidential elections until recently. Virginia, Colorado, Nevada, and North Carolina were not even considered battleground states as recently as 2004. Rapid population growth converted Florida into a battleground state in 1996 (when Clinton carried the state after several decades of Republican victories at the presidential level). However, population growth upset the political equilibrium of these states with the result that Obama swept all of these states in 2008. Population growth not only contributed to the Republican’s loss of all these states in 2008, but also increased the electoral-vote prize when the Democratic Party won them.

Arizona’s recent rapid population growth (largely due to an influx of Hispanics and, to a lesser extent, newcomers from California) appears to be transforming it from a reliably Republican state in presidential elections into a battleground state (perhaps as early as 2016).[564]

Rapid population growth (largely due to Hispanics) in Texas (with 38 electoral votes) creates the possibility of destabilizing Republican control of the nation’s second largest state (perhaps as early as 2020). As Charles Mahtesian wrote in a Politico article entitled “Obama’s Texas Battleground Prediction”:

“When Barack Obama asserted Tuesday that Texas will be a battleground state ‘soon,’ he was echoing the belief, commonly held among Democrats, that the state’s changing demographics make the transition from red to blue inevitable.”[565],[566] [Emphasis added]

Meanwhile, there does not appear to be any Democratic-leaning big state (even among the numerous Democratic-leaning states that lost electoral votes as a result of the 2010 census) moving in the Republican direction to counter-balance possible future changes in the political environment in states such as Arizona and Texas.

9.31.6 MYTH: Nationwide voting for President would give voters of as few as 11 or 12 states a controlling majority of the Electoral College, enabling them to decide presidential elections.

QUICK ANSWER:

  • Under a national popular vote, every vote in every state would be equal throughout the United States. The votes cast in the 12 biggest states would be no more, or less, valuable or controlling than votes cast anywhere else.
  • Many criticisms of nationwide popular voting for President are based on a hypothetical scenario in which a candidate wins the White House by receiving 100% of the popular vote in the 12 biggest states and 0% in the remaining 39 smaller jurisdictions. Such scenarios are politically implausible because the popular vote is relatively close in the 12 biggest states (e.g., it split 54%–46% in 2012 and split 50.2%–49.8% in 2004). Moreover, no big state delivered more than 63% of its popular vote (that is, five out of eight votes) to any candidate in the 2000, 2004, 2008, or 2012 presidential elections.
  • Opponents of a nationwide vote for President complain that if 100% of the voters of the 11 biggest states were to vote for one candidate, they alone could elect a President—while ignoring the fact that 50.01% of the voters of these same 11 states could elect a President today under the current state-by-state winner-take-all system.

The 12 biggest states contain more than half the population of the United States and possess 53% of the electoral votes (283 of 538). In fact, the 11 biggest states contain a bare majority of the electoral votes (270 of 538).

Critics of a nationwide popular vote for President sometimes argue that only the 12 biggest states would matter under such a system.

Under the critics’ hypothetical scenario, candidates would win the White House by winning 100% of the popular vote in the 12 biggest states and 0% in the 39 remaining jurisdictions (i.e., 38 states and the District of Columbia).

Referring to the National Popular Vote compact, Hans A. von Spakovsky stated in 2011:

“This would give the most populous states a controlling majority of the Electoral College, letting the voters of as few as 11 states control the outcome of presidential elections.”[567] [Emphasis added]

Senator Mitch McConnell said in 2011:

This would mean that from now on, just 12 states could decide our presidential elections. A few of the most populous and most liberal states determine who actually wins.”[568] [Emphasis added]

Ed Gillespie stated in 2011:

“With 11 of the most populous states accounting for 56 percent[569] of the population, the presidential election will essentially become a race for a dozen states with big cities.”[570] [Emphasis added]

A 2011 letter signed by House Speaker John Boehner (R–Ohio), Senator Mitch McConnell (R–Kentucky), and Governor Rick Perry (R–Texas) stated:

“The goal of this effort is clear: to put the fate of every presidential election in the hands of the voters in as few as 11 states and thus to give a handful of populous states a controlling majority of the Electoral College.”[571] [Emphasis added]

None of the above quotations about 11 or 12 states “controlling” the national popular vote reflects political reality.

It is the current state-by-state winner-take-all system—not the national popular vote approach—that would theoretically permit the 11 most populous states to control the outcome of presidential elections.

Under the current winner-take-all system, a candidate could win the Presidency by winning only 50.01% of the popular vote in the 11 biggest states. That is, under the current system, a President could be elected with about a quarter of the nationwide popular vote.

Opponents of a nationwide vote for President complain that if 100% of the voters of the 11 biggest states were to vote for one candidate, they could alone elect a President—while ignoring the fact that 50.01% of the voters of these same 11 states could elect a President today under the current state-by-state winner-take-all system.

That is, 26% of the nation’s voters could elect a President under the current system.

Moreover, getting 50.01% in 11 states is a far more likely scenario than getting 100% of the vote from these 11 states.

Curiously, the current system permits even fewer than 26% of the voters to elect a President. According to calculations (shown in table 9.31) made by MIT Professor Alexander S. Belenky using actual voter turnout data, an Electoral-College majority theoretically could have been won, under the current winner-take-all system, with between 16% and 22% of the national popular vote in the 15 elections between 1948 and 2004.[572]

Table 9.31 Smallest percentage of voters who theoretically could have elected a President under the current system

Year
Percentage
1948
16.072%
1952
17.547%
1956
17.455%
1960
17.544%
1964
18.875%
1968
19.97%
1972
20.101%
1976
21.202%
1980
21.348%
1984
21.53%
1988
21.506%
1992
21.944%
1996
22.103%
2000
21.107%
2004
21.666%
 

The implausibility of the hypothetical scenario in which one candidate receives 100% of the popular vote from the 12 biggest states is demonstrated by the fact that no big state delivered more than 63% of its popular vote (that is, five out of eight votes) to any candidate in the 2000, 2004, 2008, or 2012 presidential elections.

Table 9.32 shows the percentage of the popular vote won by the winner of the 12 biggest states between 2000 and 2012.

Table 9.32 Popular-vote percentage won by the winner of the 12 biggest states 2000–2012

State
2000
2004
2008
2012
California
53%
54%
61%
60%
Texas
59%
61%
56%
57%
New York
60%
58%
63%
63%
Florida
49%
52%
51%
50%
Illinois
55%
55%
62%
57%
Pennsylvania
51%
51%
55%
52%
Ohio
50%
51%
52%
51%
Michigan
51%
51%
57%
54%
Georgia
55%
58%
52%
53%
New Jersey
56%
53%
57%
58%
North Carolina
56%
56%
49%
50%
Virginia
52%
54%
53%
51%
 

In fact, many of the winning percentages in table 9.32 are near 50% because many of the 12 biggest states (e.g., Ohio, Florida, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and North Carolina) were battleground states in one or more elections shown in the table.

The 12 biggest states are not, of course, all Democratic bastions. In both 2000 and 2004, for example, the 12 biggest states divided 6–6 between the political parties (with Texas, Florida, Ohio, North Carolina, Georgia, and Virginia voting for George W. Bush in both years).[573]

The popular vote in the 12 biggest states split 54%–46% in 2012 and split 50.2%–49.8% in 2004.

In short, no candidate could win 100% of the popular vote in the 12 biggest states (or, indeed, any percentage close to 100%).

The relatively close campaigns of 2004 and 2012 convey a far more realistic picture of presidential politics than any contrived scenario.

The winner’s two-party popular-vote percentage was almost identical in these two re-election campaigns:

  • 51.2% for Bush in 2004,[574] and
  • 51.96% for Obama in 2012.[575]

The two elections were mirror images of one another in terms of the popular-vote margin generated by the 12 biggest states and the 39 smallest jurisdictions:

  • In 2004, Bush fought Kerry to a near-tie in the popular vote in the 12 biggest states (50.2% to 49.8%), and Bush’s margin from the 39 smallest jurisdictions was roughly equal to his nationwide margin (3,012,171 votes).
  • In 2012, Obama fought Romney to a near-tie in the popular vote in the 39 smallest jurisdictions (51% to 49%), and Obama’s margin from the 12 biggest states was roughly equal to his nationwide margin (4,966,945).

In 2004, the voters in the 39 smallest jurisdictions did not “control the outcome of the presidential election” in terms of the national popular vote. Every vote from every state—not just those 39 states—contributed to producing Bush’s nationwide popular vote total. The voters in the 39 smallest jurisdictions were not any more important or “controlling” than the voters of the 12 biggest states.

Similarly, in 2012, the voters in the 12 biggest states did not “control the outcome of the presidential election” in terms of the national popular vote. Every vote from every state contributed to producing Obama’s nationwide popular vote total. The voters in the 12 biggest states were not any more important or “controlling” than the voters of the 39 smallest jurisdictions.

2004—Bush Ties in the 12 Biggest States

In 2004, the 69,323,699 votes cast in the 12 biggest states divided almost equally:

  • 34,784,178 votes were for Kerry, and
  • 34,539,521 votes were for Bush.

Kerry’s slender 244,657-vote margin of victory in the 12 biggest states was about one-third of one percent of the 69,323,699 votes cast in those states (and about one-fifth of one percent of the votes cast nationwide).

Kerry received 50.2% of the popular vote from the 12 biggest states, and Bush received 49.8%.

Having fought Kerry to a near-tie in the 12 biggest states, Bush then won the 39 smallest jurisdictions by a margin of 3,256,828 votes (out of 51,745,350 votes cast in those states), thereby ending up with a margin of victory of 3,012,171 in the national popular vote.

Table 9.33 shows the popular vote for Senator John Kerry and President George W. Bush in the 2004 election in the 12 biggest states. Column 4 shows Bush’s percentage of the two-party vote. Columns 5 and 6 show the Republican and Democratic margins, respectively, for each state. Columns 7 and 8 show the Republican and Democratic electoral votes, respectively, for each state.

Table 9.33 Results of the 2004 election in the 12 biggest states

State
Bush
Kerry
R percent
R Margin
D Margin
R EV
D EV
California
5,509,826
6,745,485
45.0%
 
1,235,659
 
55
Texas
4,526,917
2,832,704
61.5%
1,694,213
 
34
 
New York
2,962,567
4,314,280
40.7%
 
1,351,713
 
31
Florida
3,964,522
3,583,544
52.5%
380,978
 
27
 
Illinois
2,345,946
2,891,550
44.8%
 
545,604
 
21
Pennsylvania
2,793,847
2,938,095
48.7%
 
144,248
 
21
Ohio
2,859,768
2,741,167
51.1%
118,601
 
20
 
Michigan
2,313,746
2,479,183
48.3%
 
165,437
 
17
Georgia
1,914,254
1,366,149
58.4%
548,105
 
15
 
New Jersey
1,670,003
1,911,430
46.6%
 
241,427
 
15
North Carolina
1,961,166
1,525,849
56.2%
435,317
 
15
 
Virginia
1,716,959
1,454,742
58.4%
262,217
 
13
 
Totals
34,539,521
34,784,178
49.8%
3,439,431
3,684,088
124
160
 

Table 9.34 shows the popular vote for President George W. Bush and Senator John Kerry in the 2004 election in the 39 smallest jurisdictions.

Table 9.34 Results of the 2004 election in the 39 smallest jurisdictions

State
Bush
Kerry
R percent
R Margin
D Margin
R EV
D EV
Massachusetts
1,071,109
1,803,800
37.3%
 
732,691
 
12
Indiana
1,479,438
969,011
60.4%
510,427
 
11
 
Missouri
1,455,713
1,259,171
53.6%
196,542
 
11
 
Tennessee
1,384,375
1,036,477
57.2%
347,898
 
11
 
Washington
1,304,894
1,510,201
46.4%
 
205,307
 
11
Arizona
1,104,294
893,524
55.3%
210,770
 
10
 
Maryland
1,024,703
1,334,493
43.4%
 
309,790
 
10
Minnesota
1,346,695
1,445,014
48.2%
 
98,319
 
10
Wisconsin
1,478,120
1,489,504
49.8%
 
11,384
 
10
Alabama
1,176,394
693,933
62.9%
482,461
 
9
 
Colorado
1,101,255
1,001,732
52.4%
99,523
 
9
 
Louisiana
1,102,169
820,299
57.3%
281,870
 
9
 
Kentucky
1,069,439
712,733
60.0%
356,706
 
8
 
South Carolina
937,974
661,699
58.6%
276,275
 
8
 
Connecticut
693,826
857,488
44.7%
 
163,662
 
7
Iowa
751,957
741,898
50.3%
10,059
 
7
 
Oklahoma
959,792
503,966
65.6%
455,826
 
7
 
Oregon
866,831
943,163
47.9%
 
76,332
 
7
Arkansas
572,898
469,953
54.9%
102,945
 
6
 
Kansas
736,456
434,993
62.9%
301,463
 
6
 
Mississippi
684,981
458,094
59.9%
226,887
 
6
 
Nebraska
512,814
254,328
66.8%
258,486
 
5
 
Nevada
418,690
397,190
51.3%
21,500
 
5
 
New Mexico
376,930
370,942
50.4%
5,988
 
5
 
Utah
663,742
241,199
73.3%
422,543
 
5
 
West Virginia
423,778
326,541
56.5%
97,237
 
5
 
Hawaii
194,191
231,708
45.6%
 
37,517
 
4
Idaho
409,235
181,098
69.3%
228,137
 
4
 
Maine
330,201
396,842
45.4%
 
66,641
 
4
New Hampshire
331,237
340,511
49.3%
 
9,274
 
4
Rhode Island
169,046
259,760
39.4%
 
90,714
 
4
Alaska
190,889
111,025
63.2%
79,864
 
3
 
Delaware
171,660
200,152
46.2%
 
28,492
 
3
D.C.
21,256
202,970
9.5%
 
181,714
 
3
Montana
266,063
173,710
60.5%
92,353
 
3
 
North Dakota
196,651
111,052
63.9%
85,599
 
3
 
South Dakota
232,584
149,244
60.9%
83,340
 
3
 
Vermont
121,180
184,067
39.7%
 
62,887
 
3
Wyoming
167,629
70,776
70.3%
96,853
 
3
 
Total
27,501,089
24,244,261
53.1%
 
 
162
92
 

2012—Obama Ties in the 39 Smallest Jurisdictions

In 2012, the 54,209,884 votes cast in the 39 smallest jurisdictions divided almost equally:

  • 26,578,682 votes were for Obama, and
  • 27,631,202 were for Romney.

Romney’s 1,052,520-vote margin in the 39 smallest jurisdictions give him a slender 51%–49% win from the 54,209,884 votes cast in those states.

Having fought Romney to a near-tie in the 39 smallest jurisdictions, Obama then won the 12 biggest states by a margin of 6,019,465 votes (out of 72,618,625 votes cast in those states), thereby ending up with a margin of victory of 4,966,945 in the national popular vote.

Table 9.35 shows the popular vote for Governor Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama in the 2012 election in the 39 smallest jurisdictions.

Table 9.35 Results of the 2012 election in the 39 smallest jurisdictions.

State
Romney
Obama
R percent
R Margin
D Margin
R EV
D EV
Washington
1,290,670
1,755,396
42.4%
 
464,726
 
12
Arizona
1,233,654
1,025,232
54.6%
208,422
 
11
 
Indiana
1,420,543
1,152,887
55.2%
267,656
 
11
 
Massachusetts
1,188,314
1,921,290
38.2%
 
732,976
 
11
Tennessee
1,462,330
960,709
60.4%
501,621
 
11
 
Maryland
971,869
1,677,844
36.7%
 
705,975
 
10
Minnesota
1,320,225
1,546,167
46.1%
 
225,942
 
10
Missouri
1,482,440
1,223,796
54.8%
258,644
 
10
 
Wisconsin
1,410,966
1,620,985
46.5%
 
210,019
 
10
Alabama
1,255,925
795,696
61.2%
460,229
 
9
 
Colorado
1,185,050
1,322,998
47.2%
 
137,948
 
9
South Carolina
1,071,645
865,941
55.3%
205,704
 
9
 
Kentucky
1,087,190
679,370
61.5%
407,820
 
8
 
Louisiana
1,152,262
809,141
58.7%
343,121
 
8
 
Connecticut
634,892
905,083
41.2%
 
270,191
 
7
Oklahoma
891,325
443,547
66.8%
447,778
 
7
 
Oregon
754,175
970,488
43.7%
 
216,313
 
7
Arkansas
647,744
394,409
62.2%
253,335
 
6
 
Iowa
730,617
822,544
47.0%
 
91,927
 
6
Kansas
692,634
440,726
61.1%
251,908
 
6
 
Mississippi
710,746
562,949
55.8%
147,797
 
6
 
Nevada
463,567
531,373
46.6%
 
67,806
 
6
Utah
740,600
251,813
74.6%
488,787
 
6
 
Nebraska
475,064
302,081
61.1%
172,983
 
5
 
New Mexico
335,788
415,335
44.7%
 
79,547
 
5
West Virginia
417,584
238,230
63.7%
179,354
 
5
 
Hawaii
121,015
306,658
28.3%
 
185,643
 
4
Idaho
420,911
212,787
66.4%
208,124
 
4
 
Maine
292,276
401,306
42.1%
 
109,030
 
4
New Hampshire
329,918
369,561
47.2%
 
39,643
 
4
Rhode Island
157,204
279,677
36.0%
 
122,473
 
4
Alaska
164,676
122,640
57.3%
42,036
 
3
 
Delaware
165,484
242,584
40.6%
 
77,100
 
3
D.C.
21,381
267,070
7.4%
 
245,689
 
3
Montana
267,928
201,839
57.0%
66,089
 
3
 
North Dakota
188,320
124,966
60.1%
63,354
 
3
 
South Dakota
210,610
145,039
59.2%
65,571
 
3
 
Vermont
92,698
199,239
31.8%
 
106,541
 
3
Wyoming
170,962
69,286
71.2%
101,676
 
3
 
Total
27,631,202
26,578,682
51.0%
 
 
137
118
 

Table 9.36 shows the popular vote for Governor Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama in the 2012 election in the 12 biggest states.

Table 9.36 Results of the 2012 election in the 12 biggest states

State
Romney
Obama
R percent
R Margin
D Margin
R EV
D EV
Virginia
1,822,522
1,971,820
48.0%
 
149,298
 
13
New Jersey
1,478,088
2,122,786
41.0%
 
644,698
 
14
North Carolina
2,270,395
2,178,391
51.0%
92,004
 
15
 
Georgia
2,078,688
1,773,827
54.0%
304,861
 
16
 
Michigan
2,115,256
2,564,569
45.2%
 
449,313
 
16
Ohio
2,661,407
2,827,621
48.5%
 
166,214
 
18
Illinois
2,135,216
3,019,512
41.4%
 
884,296
 
20
Pennsylvania
2,680,434
2,990,274
47.3%
 
309,840
 
20
Florida
4,162,341
4,235,965
49.6%
 
73,624
 
29
New York
2,485,432
4,471,871
35.7%
 
1,986,439
 
29
Texas
4,569,843
3,308,124
58.0%
1,261,719
 
38
 
California
4,839,958
7,854,285
38.1%
 
3,014,327
 
55
Total
33,299,580
39,319,045
45.9%
 
 
69
214
 

Appendix HH presents the 2012 two-party presidential vote for all 50 states and the District of Columbia in alphabetical order.[576] See table 9.45 for the presidential vote for Barack Obama (D), Mitt Romney (R), Gary Johnson (Libertarian), Jill Stein (Green), and the other 22 minor-party and independent candidates who were on the ballot in 2012 in at least one state.

Erroneous Statements about Big States May Possibly Be the Result of Misunderstanding the Way that the National Popular Vote Compact Operates

The four statements quoted at the beginning of this section are so far removed from what actually happens in the real world that we should mention the following possibility. It is possible that all four statements quoted at the beginning of this section are based on a total misunderstanding of how the National Popular Vote compact would operate.

The National Popular Vote compact would take effect when enacted by states possessing a majority of the electoral votes (270 of 538).

The assertion that the National Popular Vote compact would

“give a handful of populous states a controlling majority of the Electoral College”

could conceivably be true if the National Popular Vote compact were written so that it counted only the popular votes of the states belonging to the compact. If that were the case (and it is not) and if one makes the additional implausible assumption that the compact consisted only of the 12 biggest states, the four statements would be true. However, the National Popular Vote compact would not operate that way even if only the 12 biggest states belonged to the compact.

The National Popular Vote compact would add up the votes cast in all 50 states and the District of Columbia to determine the national popular-vote winner regardless of whether a state is a member of the compact. Under the National Popular Vote compact, every vote in all 50 states would be counted in arriving at the national popular vote total for each candidate. Under the National Popular Vote compact, there would be nothing special about a vote cast in the member states (or in the 12 biggest states) in comparison to votes cast anywhere else. Every vote would be equal throughout the United States under the National Popular Vote compact.

Note also that the National Popular Vote compact has not been enacted primarily by big states. As of 2012, the compact has been enacted by nine jurisdictions, including three small jurisdictions (Hawaii, Vermont, and the District of Columbia), three medium-sized states (Maryland, Massachusetts, and Washington state), and three of the 12 biggest states (California, Illinois, and New Jersey).

Role of Big Cities

Many of the critics of a nationwide popular vote for President who argue that the 12 biggest states would control a nationwide election for President also claim that big cities, such as Los Angeles, would control a nationwide election.

Big cities, such as Los Angeles, do not even control California elections, as evidenced by the historical fact that Republicans Ronald Reagan, George Deukmejian, Pete Wilson, and Arnold Schwarzenegger were all elected Governor without ever carrying Los Angeles (or San Francisco, San Jose, Oakland, or most of the other big cities in the state). If Los Angeles cannot control statewide elections in its own state, it can hardly control a nationwide election.

While is certainly true that most of the biggest cities in the country vote Democratic, smaller cities and towns, exurbs, rural areas, and many suburbs usually vote Republican.

If big cities controlled the outcome of elections, every Governor and every U.S. Senator would be a Democrat in every state with a significant city. There are, of course, examples from every state with a significant city, of Republicans winning races for Governor and U.S. Senator without ever carrying the state’s biggest city.

The origins of the myth about big cities may stem from the incorrect belief that big cities are bigger than they actually are, and that big cities account for a greater fraction of the nation’s population than they actually do.

A look at our country’s actual demographics contradicts these misconceptions concerning big cities.

Table 9.37 shows the population of the nation’s 50 biggest cities according to the 2010 census.

Table 9.37 Population of the 50 biggest U.S. cities

Rank
City
2010 Population
1
New York
8,175,133
2
Los Angeles
3,792,621
3
Chicago
2,695,598
4
Houston
2,099,451
5
Philadelphia
1,526,006
6
Phoenix
1,445,632
7
San Antonio
1,327,407
8
San Diego
1,307,402
9
Dallas
1,197,816
10
San Jose
945,942
11
Jacksonville
821,784
12
Indianapolis
820,445
13
Austin
790,390
14
San Francisco
805,235
15
Columbus
787,033
16
Fort Worth
741,206
17
Charlotte
731,424
18
Detroit
713,777
19
El Paso
649,121
20
Memphis
646,889
21
Boston
617,594
22
Seattle
608,660
23
Denver
600,158
24
Baltimore
620,961
25
Washington
601,723
26
Nashville
601,222
27
Louisville
597,337
28
Milwaukee
594,833
29
Portland
583,776
30
Oklahoma City
579,999
31
Las Vegas
583,756
32
Albuquerque
545,852
33
Tucson
520,116
34
Fresno
494,665
35
Sacramento
466,488
36
Long Beach
462,257
37
Kansas City
459,787
38
Mesa
439,041
39
Virginia Beach
437,994
40
Atlanta
420,003
41
Colorado Springs
416,427
42
Raleigh
403,892
43
Omaha
408,958
44
Miami
399,457
45
Tulsa
391,906
46
Oakland
390,724
47
Cleveland
396,815
48
Minneapolis
382,578
49
Wichita
382,368
50
Arlington, Texas
365,438
Total
 
46,795,097
 

The combined population of the nation’s five biggest cities (New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, and Philadelphia) constitutes only 6% of the nation’s population of 308,745,538 (based on the 2010 census).

The combined population of the 20 biggest cities constitutes only 10% of the nation’s population. To put this group of 20 cities in perspective, Memphis is the nation’s 20th biggest city. Memphis had a population of 646,889 in 2010.

The combined population of the 50 biggest cities constitutes only 15% of the nation’s population. To put this group of 50 cities in perspective, Arlington, Texas, is the nation’s 50th biggest city (and had a population of 365,438 in 2010).

To put it another way, 85% of the population of the United States lives in places with a population of less than 365,000 (the population of Arlington, Texas).

Moreover, the population of the nation’s 50 biggest cities is declining. In 2000, the 50 biggest cities together accounted for 19% of the nation’s population (compared to 15% in 2010).

Even if one makes the far-fetched assumption that a candidate could win 100% of the votes in the nation’s 50 biggest cities, that candidate would win only 15% of the national popular vote.

In a nationwide vote for President, a vote cast in a big city would be no more (or less) valuable or controlling than a vote cast in a suburb, an exurb, a small town, or a rural area.

When every vote is equal and the winner is the candidate who receives the most popular votes, candidates know that they need to solicit voters throughout their entire constituency in order to win.

Perhaps the most convincing evidence for the fact that big cities do not control elections comes from looking at the way that presidential races are actually run today.

Inside a battleground state in a presidential election today, every vote is equal, and the winner is the candidate who receives the most popular votes.

When presidential candidates campaign to win the electoral votes of a closely divided battleground state, they campaign throughout the state. The big cities do not receive all the attention—much less control the outcome. Cleveland and Miami have certainly not received all the attention when presidential candidates have campaigned in the closely divided battleground states of Ohio and Florida. Moreover, Cleveland and Miami manifestly do not control the statewide outcomes in Ohio and Florida, as evidenced by the outcome of the 2000 and 2004 presidential elections in those states. The Democrats carried both Cleveland and Miami in 2000 and 2004, but the Republicans carried both states. In fact, Senator John Kerry won the five biggest cities in Ohio in 2004, but he did not win the state.

In summary, under the National Popular Vote compact, every vote would be equal throughout the United States. Votes cast in all 50 states and the District of Columbia would be added together to determine the national popular vote winner. A vote cast a big city or big state would be no more, or less, valuable or “controlling” than a vote cast anywhere else.

9.31.7 MYTH: Candidates would concentrate on Democratic-leaning metropolitan markets because of lower advertising costs.

QUICK ANSWER:

  • The cost per impression of television advertising (by far the costliest component of presidential campaigns) is generally higher—not lower—in major metropolitan media markets.

John Samples of the Cato Institute has stated:

“NPV will encourage presidential campaigns to focus their efforts in dense media markets where costs per vote are lowest.…
“In general, because of the relative costs of attracting votes, the NPV proposal seems likely at the margin to attract candidate attention to populous states.”[577] [Emphasis added]

Claremont College Professor Michael Uhlmann stated in a January 20, 2012, debate at the Sutherland Institute in Salt Lake City:

“Under the National Popular Vote system, necessarily, there’s going to be tilting toward where the greater masses of votes are contained—in the larger cities and the immediate suburbs. That’s where the votes are. That’s where they can be reached the most cheaply. That’s where the maximum bang for the media buck gets paid. I think that’s the likely tendency.”[578] [Emphasis added]

The arguments made by both Samples and Uhlmann are contrary to the facts.

Television advertising (by far the costliest component of presidential campaigns) is generally higher on a per-impression basis in the larger media markets than in smaller markets.

Based on 488 quotations from television stations in media markets of various sizes for 30-second prime-time television ads for the weeks of October 15 and 22, 2012, compiled by Ainsley-Shea (a Minneapolis public relations firm) in July 2012, the average cost per impression was:

  • 4.235 cents for the 1st–5th markets,
  • 4.099 cents for the 26th–30th markets, and
  • 3.892 cents for the 101st–105th markets.

The details of television advertising costs in the 1st, 26th, and 101st largest media markets further illustrate the conclusion that television advertising is generally more expensive in the larger media markets than in smaller markets.

Table 9.38 shows the cost of a 30-second prime-time television slot in New York City—the nation’s No. 1 media market. Columns 1, 2, and 3 show the station, the time of day (all P.M.), and the program name, respectively. Columns 4, 5, and 6 show the rating,[579] share, and gross rating points (GRP), respectively, for adults age 18 and older. Column 7 shows the cost of the slot. Column 8 shows the cost per 1,000 impressions (that is, the cost in column 7 divided by the media market’s population of 15,334,000). The average cost for New York City was $51.90 per 1,000 impressions—5.190 cents per impression.

Table 9.38 Television ads in New York City—the nation’s No. 1 media market—averaged 5.190 cents per impression.

Station
Time
Program
Rating
Share
Gross rating points
Cost
Cost per 1000
WABC
M 10–11
Castle
4.2
13.0%
8.4
$60,027
$46.58
WABC
Tu 9–10
Happy Endings
7.4
16.0%
14.8
$70,032
$31.06
WABC
W 10–11
Nashville
4.4
10.2%
8.8
$70,032
$51.55
WABC
Th 9–10
Grey's Anatomy
5.1
11.1%
10.2
$100,045
$63.94
WABC
F 8–9
Shark Tank
1.4
4.0%
2.8
$36,016
$81.45
WABC
Sa 8–11
ABC College Football
1
3.8%
2
$24,011
$74.53
WABC
Su 7–8
America's Funniest Home Videos
1.3
4.4%
2.6
$20,009
$49.26
WNBC
M 8–10
The Voice
1.3
3.6%
2.6
$80,036
$203.05
WNBC
Tu 10–11
Parenthood
2.8
6.4%
5.6
$45,020
$52.45
WNBC
W 9–10
Law & Order SVU
3.4
7.5%
6.8
$60,027
$57.14
WNBC
Th 10–11
Rock Center
2.6
6.1%
5.2
$30,014
$37.50
WNBC
F 10–11
Dateline FR–NBC
2
5.0%
4
$25,011
$41.67
WNBC
Sa 9–10
Dateline
1
3.6%
2
$15,007
$49.02
WNBC
Su 8:15–11:30
NFL Regular Season Football
6.8
20.1%
13.6
$100,045
$47.98
WCBS
M 8–9
How I met your mother/Partners
4.1
12.0%
8.2
$60,027
$47.85
WCBS
Tu 10–11
Vegas
4.9
11.1%
9.8
$50,023
$33.47
WCBS
W 8–9
Survivors
3.6
8.8%
7.2
$50,023
$45.37
WCBS
Th 8–9
BIG BANG–CBS/RLS–ENGMNT–CBS
5.6
13.3%
11.2
$80,036
$46.78
WCBS
F 8–9
CSI:NY
3.3
9.2%
6.6
$30,014
$29.41
WCBS
Sa 9–10
Average
2.2
7.9%
4.4
$13,006
$19.40
WCBS
Su 10–11
The Mentalist
3.2
9.7%
6.4
$60,027
$61.60
WPIX
M 8–10
90210/Gossip Girl
0.8
2.2%
1.6
$28,013
$115.70
WPIX
Tu 8–10
Hart of Dixie/Emily Owens
1.1
2.5%
2.2
$28,013
$81.87
WPIX
W 8–10
Arrow/Supernatural
0.7
1.7%
1.4
$28,013
$127.27
WPIX
Th 8–10
Vampire Diaries/Beauty
2.4
5.4%
4.8
$28,013
$38.25
WPIX
F 8–10
Top Model/Nikita
0.8
2.2%
1.6
$17,008
$66.93
WPIX
Sa 8–10
Friends
0.2
0.9%
0.4
$17,008
$223.68
WPIX
Su 8–10
Seinfeld
0.3
0.9%
0.6
$17,008
$173.47
 
 
Total
 
 
155.8
$1,241,558
$51.90
 

The similarly computed cost of a 30-second prime-time television slot in Los Angeles—the nation’s No. 2 media market—averaged $56.53 per 1,000 impressions—5.653 cents per impression.

Table 9.39 shows the cost of a 30-second prime-time television slot in Indianapolis—the nation’s No. 26 media market. Column 8 shows the cost per 1,000 impressions (that is, the cost in column 7 divided by the market’s population of 2,094,000). The average cost for Indianapolis was $39.80 per 1,000 impressions—3.980 cents per impression.

Table 9.39 Television ads in Indianapolis—the nation’s No. 26 media market—averaged 3.980 cents per impression.

Station
Time
Program
Rating
Share
Gross rating points
Cost
Cost per 1000
WRTV
M 8–10
Dancing with the Stars
8.5
15.6%
17
$16,007
$44.94
WRTV
Tu 10–11
Private Practice
6
12.6%
12
$16,007
$63.49
WRTV
W 10–11
Nashville
5.5
12.6%
11
$16,007
$69.57
WRTV
Th 9–10
Grey's Anatomy
6.8
12.4%
13.6
$20,009
$70.42
WRTV
F 9–10
Primetime
2
4.4%
4
$10,005
$119.05
WRTV
Sa 8–11
Saturday Movie
2.7
7.1%
5.4
$4,802
$42.86
WRTV
Su 7–8
America's Funniest Home Videos
2.2
4.8%
4.4
$12,005
$130.43
WTHR
M 10–11
Revolution
3.2
7.1%
6.4
$6,003
$44.78
WTHR
Tu 10–11
Parenthood–NBC
4
8.4%
8
$8,004
$47.62
WTHR
W 9–10
Law & Order
6
12.1%
12
$7,003
$27.78
WTHR
Th 9–10
Office/Parks & Recreation
4.4
8.1%
8.8
$8,004
$43.48
WTHR
F 10–11
Dateline FR–NBC
2.9
7.2%
5.8
$4,002
$33.33
WTHR
Sa 8–9
NBC Encores
2.3
6.4%
4.6
$2,401
$25.00
WISH
M 10–11
Hawaii 5–0–CBS
6.2
13.9%
12.4
$5,002
$19.08
WISH
Tu 9–10
NCIS:LA–CBS
9
17.7%
18
$8,004
421.28
WISH
W 10–11
CSI
5.8
13.1%
11.6
$6,003
$25.00
WISH
Th 9–10
PERSON–INT–CBS
6
11.0%
12
$10,005
$39.68
WISH
F 8–9
CSI:NY
4.2
10.9%
8.4
$3,201
$18.18
WISH
Sa 10–11
48 Hours
4.5
12.0%
9
$2,001
$10.64
WISH
Su 9–10
The Good Wife
7
11.7%
14
$7,003
$23.81
WTTV+S2
M–Su 8–11
Average
1.2
2.6%
16.8
$7,003
$19.23
 
 
Total
 
 
215.2
$178,480
39.80
 

Table 9.40 shows the cost of a 30-second prime-time television slot in the nation’s No. 101 media market—Fort Smith, Fayetteville, Springdale, and Rogers, Arkansas. Column 8 shows the cost per 1,000 impressions (that is, the cost in column 7 divided by the market’s population of 573,000). The average cost for this market is $30.84 per 1,000 impressions—3.084 cents per impression.

Table 9.40 Television ads in the Fort Smith, Fayetteville, Springdale, and Rogers, Arkansas market—the nation’s No. 101 media market—averaged 3.084 cents per impression.

Station
Time
Program
Rating
Share
Gross rating points
Cost
Cost per 1000
KHBS+S2
M 9–10
Castle
8.7
19.7%
17.4
$2,401
$24.00
KHBS+S2
Tu 9–10
Private Practice
6.4
14.9%
12.8
$2,401
$32.43
KHBS+S2
W 9–10
Nashville
5.7
15.2%
11.4
$2,601
$39.39
KHBS+S2
Th 8–9
Grey's Anatomy
5.6
12.0%
11.2
$3,602
$56.25
KHBS+S2
F 8–9
Shark Tank
2.3
6.1%
4.6
$700
$26.92
 
Su 6–7
America's Funniest Home Videos
3.8
10.7%
7.6
$1,201
$27.27
KNWA
M 9–10
ROCK–WLLMS–NBC
1.4
3.2%
2.8
$1,921
$120.00
KNWA
Tu 9–10
Parenthood–NBC
2.5
5.8%
5
$3,602
$128.57
KNWA
W 9–10
AVG. ALL WKS
1.5
4.1%
3
$1,501
$83.33
KNWA
Th 9–10
PRIME SUSP–NBC
1.2
2.9%
2.4
$1,201
$85.71
KNWA
F 8–9
GRIMM–NBC
3.9
10.1%
7.8
$1,501
$34.09
KFSM
M 7–8
HW I–MOTHR–CBS/2BROKE GRL–CBS
8.4
18.3%
16.8
$1,601
$16.67
KFSM
Tu 7–8
NCIS–CBS
14
31.6%
28
$2,401
$15.00
KFSM
W 8–9
Criminal Minds
5.5
14.2%
11
$1,801
$28.13
KFSM
Th 8–9
PERSON–INT–CBS
9.5
20.4%
19
$1,901
$17.59
KFSM
F 7–8
CSI
5.5
17.1%
11
$1,201
$18.75
KFSM
Sa 9–10
48 Hour Mystery
4.5
12.7%
9
$1,000
$19.23
KFSM
Su 9–10
The Mentalist
6.5
15.8%
13
$1,901
$25.68
 
 
Total
 
 
193.8
$34,435
$30.84
 

An NPR story entitled “Ads Slice Up Swing States With Growing Precision” reported on presidential campaigning in Colorado’s small media markets:

“Republicans outnumber Democrats in El Paso County more than 2 to 1. Barack Obama lost this part of Colorado to John McCain by 19 points in 2008.
“‘It's not a matter of just winning; it's winning by how much,’ says Rich Beeson, a fifth-generation Coloradan and political director for the Romney campaign.
“Presidential campaigns know exactly the margin of victory or defeat that they have to hit in each town in order to carry an entire state. Democratic media strategist Tad Devine says campaigns set extremely specific goals based on hard data.…
“Although no one suggests that President Obama will win Colorado Springs, whether he loses it by 15 or 25 points could determine whether he carries Colorado.
Beeson of the Romney campaign says smaller cities are vital to this chess game, especially since they're cheaper to advertise in.
“‘A lot of secondary markets are very key to the overall map, whether it's a Charlottesville in Virginia or a Colorado Springs in Colorado,’ he says. ‘You can’t ever cede the ground to anyone.’”[580] [Emphasis added]

Soliciting every available vote is a strategic necessity when the winner of an election is the candidate who receives the most popular votes.

9.31.8 MYTH: Only citizens impact the allocation of electoral votes under the current system.

QUICK ANSWER:

  • Even though they cannot vote for President, non-citizens impact the allocation of electoral votes. The U.S. Constitution requires that the census count all “persons”—including non-citizens—for the purpose of apportioning electoral votes among the states.
  • Under the current method of electing the President, legal voters in states that acquired additional electoral votes (because of the disproportionate presence of non-citizens in their states) deliver additional electoral votes to their candidate. Voters in states that lost electoral votes have correspondingly less influence.
  • Five states with disproportionally large numbers of non-citizens (relative to other states) acquired additional electoral votes as a result of the 2010 census, while 10 states each lost one electoral vote.
  • Overall, the Democrats have a net 10 electoral-vote advantage in the 2012, 2016, and 2020 elections from the 15 states whose representation was affected by the counting of non-citizens in allocating electoral votes among the states.
  • The National Popular Vote compact would eliminate the distortion in presidential elections caused by the disproportionate presence of non-citizens in certain states.

Under federal law, non-citizens cannot vote in presidential elections. Nonetheless, non-citizens significantly impact presidential elections because they affect the allocation of electoral votes among the states.

As Professor George C. Edwards III has pointed out:

“Representation in the House is based on the decennial census, which counts all residents—whether citizens or not.… States … where non-citizens compose a larger percentage of the population receive more electoral votes than they would if electoral votes were allocated on the basis of the number of a state’s citizens.”[581]

The U.S. Constitution requires that the census be used to determine each state’s number of seats in the U.S. House of Representatives. Each state receives a number of electoral votes equal to the state’s number of U.S. Representatives plus two (representing the state’s two U.S. Senators).

The Constitution specifies that the census count all “persons,” thereby including non-citizens living in the United States in the count:

“Representatives … shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons.”[582],[583] [Emphasis added]

The Census Bureau uses a mathematical formula (specified by a federal statute adopted in 1941) known as the “method of equal proportions” to apportion seats in the U.S. House of Representatives automatically among the states.[584]

A state having a disproportionally large number of non-citizens (relative to other states) acquires additional U.S. House seats and, hence, additional electoral votes.

Because of the winner-take-all rule, legal voters in a state that acquired additional electoral votes by virtue of the disproportionate presence of non-citizens deliver an enlarged bloc of electoral votes to the candidate receiving the most popular votes in their state. That is, the influence of the legal voters is increased because of the presence of non-citizens.

Similarly, legal voters in a state that lost electoral votes deliver a diminished bloc of electoral votes.

The apportionment of the U.S. House and Electoral College resulting from the 2010 census governs the 2012, 2016, and 2020 elections.

Professor Leonard Steinhorn of American University has computed the effect of non-citizens on presidential elections. He plugged American Community Survey data on the number of citizens and non-citizens in each state in 2010 into the statutory formula to apportion U.S. House seat among the states.[585]

In an article entitled “Without Voting, Noncitizens Could Swing the Election for Obama,” Steinhorn found that non-citizens affected the number of electoral votes possessed by 15 states.

Five states gained between one and five electoral votes, and 10 states each lost one electoral vote because of non-citizens.

Overall, the Democrats have a net 10 electoral-vote advantage in the 2012, 2016, and 2020 elections from the 15 states whose representation was affected by the counting of non-citizens in allocating electoral votes among the states.

  • Democratic non-battleground states gained 7 electoral votes:
  • +5 for California
  • +1 for New York
  • +1 for Washington state.
  • Republican non-battleground states lost 3 electoral votes:
  • +2 for Texas.
  • –1 for Indiana
  • –1 for Missouri
  • –1 for Louisiana
  • –1 for Montana
  • –1 for Oklahoma.
  • Six battleground states were affected:
  • +1 Florida
  • –1 for Iowa
  • –1 for Michigan
  • –1 for North Carolina
  • –1 for Ohio
  • –1 for Pennsylvania.

Battleground states can, by definition, go either way, and therefore do not constitute a built-in advantage to either party.

Excluding non-citizens from the calculation used to apportion seats in the U.S. House of Representatives would require a federal constitutional amendment.

The National Popular Vote compact would eliminate the distortion in presidential elections caused by the disproportionate presence of non-citizens in certain states. Nationwide voting for President would equalize the vote of every legal voter in the country by guaranteeing the Presidency to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

9.31.9 MYTH: The Republican Party has a lock on the Electoral College.

QUICK ANSWER:

  • An argument became prevalent during the 1980s that the Republican Party had a permanent “lock” on the Electoral College because numerous states had repeatedly voted Republican for President between 1968 and 1988.
  • Current political data do not support the notion of the existence of an “electoral lock” today in favor of the Republican Party.
  • Neither party has a lock on the Electoral College because the United States is, politically, an evenly divided country in which the cumulative nationwide vote for the two parties from the start of the modern political era in 1932 through 2008 has been virtually tied.
  • To the extent that this kind of “electoral lock” argument has a small element of validity, if the Electoral College map of 2012 were to persist, the electoral map would, if anything, be slightly unfavorable to the Republican Party. Of the 32 states that voted for the same party in all six presidential elections between 1992 and 2012, 19 states (possessing 242 electoral votes) voted Democratic in all six presidential elections, and 13 states (possessing 102 electoral votes) voted Republican in all six presidential elections. If the 2016 presidential election is conducted under the state-by-state winner-take-all rule and is reasonably close, it is likely that all (or almost all) of the 32 states that have voted for the same party in the past six presidential elections will continue to support that same party.

An argument became prevalent during the 1980s that the Republican Party had a permanent “lock” on the Electoral College because a large number of states had repeatedly voted Republican for President between 1968 and 1988.

The notion of a “lock” arose from the fact that Republicans won five of the six presidential elections during this period, and that Republicans won landslide victories in 1972 and 1984.

In fact, neither party has a lock on the Electoral College because the United States is, politically, an evenly divided country in which the cumulative nationwide vote for the two parties from the start of the modern political era in 1932 through 2008 (table 9.25) has been virtually tied:

  • 746,260,766 total votes for the Democrats and
  • 745,502,654 total votes for the Republicans.

The Republican Party won five of the six presidential elections between 1972 and 1984. The reason for this result was that more voters (often in landslide numbers) voted for the Republican nominee during that period—not because of the mechanics of the Electoral College.

In any event, the Republican Party does not have any such “electoral lock” today.

To the extent that this kind of “electoral lock” argument has a small element of validity, if the Electoral College map of 2012 were to persist, the electoral map would, if anything, be slightly be unfavorable to the Republican Party.

Table 9.41 shows that 32 states that voted for the same party in all six presidential elections between 1992 and 2012. These 32 states possess about two-thirds (64%) of the 538 votes in the Electoral College. Of these 32 states, 19 states (possessing 242 electoral votes after the 2010 census) voted Democratic in all six presidential elections between 1992 and 2012, and 13 states (possessing 102 electoral votes after the 2010 census) voted Republican in the six elections. The table is organized in terms of number of elections (from zero to six) in which a state voted Democratic. The number of electoral votes shown in the table are those applicable to the 2012 election.

Table 9.41 The 32 states that voted for the same party in the six presidential elections between 1992 and 2012

Dem 6 times
Dem 5 times
Dem 4 times
Dem 3 times
Dem 2 times
Dem 1 time
Dem 0 times
CA (55)
CT (7)
DE (3)
D.C. (3)
HI (4)
IL (20)
MA (11)
ME (4)
MD (10)
MI (16)
MN (10)
NJ (14)
NY (29)
OR (7)
PA (20)
RI (4)
VT (3)
WA (12)
WI (10)
IA (6)
NH (4)
NM (5)
NV (6)
OH (18)
 
CO (9)
FL (29)
 
AR (6)
KY (8)
LA (8)
MO (10)
TN (11)
VA (13)
WV (5)
AZ (11)
GA(16)
IN (11)
MT (3)
NC (15)
AL (9)
AK (3)
ID (4)
KS (6)
MS (6)
NE (5)
ND (3)
OK (7)
SC (9)
SD (3)
TX (38)
UT (6)
WY (3)
242 EV
15 EV
24 EV
38EV
61 EV
56 EV
102 EV
                 
 

Table 9.41 reflects one aspect of the current polarization of American politics. One possible cause of this polarization may be the tendency, discussed in Bill Bishop’s book The Big Sort, of like-minded Americans to cluster together geographically.[586]

Regardless of the causes behind the behavior shown in table 9.41, if the 2016 presidential election is conducted under the state-by-state winner-take-all rule and is reasonably close, it is likely that most of the 32 states that have voted consistently for the same party in the past six presidential elections would continue to support that same party.[587]

In any event, table 9.41 certainly does not support the notion of the existence today of an “electoral lock” in favor of the Republican Party.

Table 9.42 shows a simulation of the 2012 presidential election produced by applying a tie-producing uniform shift to actual election returns (as shown in table 9.35, table 9.36, table 9.45, and appendix HH). In 2012, Governor Romney received 48.0418657% of the two-party national popular vote—a shortfall of 1.9581343%. Column 2 shows the simulated figures for Romney obtained by applying a uniform upward adjustment of 1.9581343% to Romney’s actual vote in each state (and a corresponding downward adjustment to Obama’s actual vote in each state), thereby producing a virtual tie in the national popular vote (63,414,254 to 63,414,255). Column 4 shows Romney’s percentage of the two-party vote using this method of simulation. Columns 5 and 6 show the Republican and Democratic margins, respectively, for each state using this method of simulation. Columns 7 and 8 show the Republican and Democratic electoral votes, respectively, for each state using this method of simulation. The table is sorted according to the simulated Republican percentage in column 4.

Table 9.42 Simulated tie-producing uniform shift of 2012 election data

State
Romney
Obama
R-percent
R- Margin
D-Margin
R-EV
D-EV
D.C.
27,029
261,422
9.37%
 
234,392
 
3
HI
129,389
298,284
30.25%
 
168,894
 
4
VT
98,415
193,522
33.71%
 
95,108
 
3
NY
2,621,665
4,335,638
37.68%
 
1,713,972
 
29
RI
165,759
271,122
37.94%
 
105,364
 
4
MD
1,023,754
1,625,959
38.64%
 
602,205
 
10
CA
5,088,528
7,605,715
40.09%
 
2,517,186
 
55
MA
1,249,204
1,860,400
40.17%
 
611,196
 
11
DE
173,475
234,593
42.51%
 
61,119
 
3
NJ
1,548,598
2,052,276
43.01%
 
503,678
 
14
CT
665,047
874,928
43.19%
 
209,881
 
7
IL
2,236,152
2,918,576
43.38%
 
682,423
 
20
ME
305,857
387,725
44.10%
 
81,867
 
4
WA
1,350,316
1,695,750
44.33%
 
345,434
 
12
OR
787,946
936,717
45.69%
 
148,771
 
7
NM
350,496
400,627
46.66%
 
50,131
 
5
MI
2,206,893
2,472,932
47.16%
 
266,038
 
16
MN
1,376,353
1,490,039
48.02%
 
113,686
 
10
WI
1,470,336
1,561,615
48.49%
 
91,280
 
10
NV
483,049
511,891
48.55%
 
28,841
 
6
IA
761,030
792,131
49.00%
 
31,101
 
6
NH
343,615
355,864
49.12%
 
12,250
 
4
CO
1,234,161
1,273,887
49.21%
 
39,726
 
9
PA
2,791,474
2,879,234
49.23%
 
87,760
 
20
VA
1,896,820
1,897,522
49.99%
 
701
 
13
OH
2,768,890
2,720,138
50.44%
48,751
 
18
 
FL
4,326,791
4,071,515
51.52%
255,276
 
29
 
NC
2,357,508
2,091,278
52.99%
266,230
 
15
 
GA
2,154,125
1,698,390
55.91%
455,736
 
16
 
AZ
1,277,886
981,000
56.57%
296,886
 
11
 
MO
1,535,432
1,170,804
56.74%
364,627
 
10
 
IN
1,470,934
1,102,496
57.16%
368,438
 
11
 
SC
1,109,586
828,000
57.27%
281,585
 
9
 
MS
735,687
538,008
57.76%
197,678
 
6
 
MT
277,127
192,640
58.99%
84,486
 
3
 
AK
170,302
117,014
59.27%
53,288
 
3
 
TX
4,724,104
3,153,863
59.97%
1,570,241
 
38
 
LA
1,190,669
770,734
60.70%
419,935
 
8
 
SD
217,574
138,075
61.18%
79,499
 
3
 
ND
194,455
118,831
62.07%
75,623
 
3
 
TN
1,509,776
913,263
62.31%
596,514
 
11
 
KS
714,827
418,533
63.07%
296,293
 
6
 
NE
490,282
286,863
63.09%
203,418
 
5
 
AL
1,296,098
755,523
63.17%
540,576
 
9
 
KY
1,121,782
644,778
63.50%
477,003
 
8
 
AR
668,151
374,002
64.11%
294,149
 
6
 
WV
430,426
225,388
65.63%
205,037
 
5
 
ID
433,320
200,378
68.38%
232,941
 
4
 
OK
917,464
417,408
68.73%
500,055
 
7
 
WY
175,666
64,582
73.12%
111,085
 
3
 
UT
760,033
232,380
76.58%
527,653
 
6
 
Total
63,414,254
63,414,255
 
 
 
253
285
 

The result of the tie-producing uniform shift shown in table 9.42 is that President Obama loses Florida (29 electoral votes) and Ohio (18 electoral votes), but still ends up with a 285–253 lead in the Electoral College. Thus, even if Romney had received enough additional voter support to create a tie in the national popular vote (preserving each candidate’s relative profile in each state), Obama would still have ended up with a lead of 28 electoral votes using this method of simulation.

Table 9.42 also shows that Obama’s lead in Virginia (13 electoral votes) shrinks to an eminently recountable 701 votes (1,897,522 to 1,896,820) using this method of simulation. Even if Romney had won Virginia, Obama would still have had a 272–266 lead in the Electoral College.

In a second simulation (shown in table 9.43), Romney’s actual results are adjusted uniformly upward by 2.732% in each state (with Obama’s vote receiving a corresponding downward adjustment in each state). This adjustment would give Romney a lead of 1,962,965 votes nationwide (64,395,737 to 62,432,772). This adjustment is just sufficient to move both Virginia and Pennsylvania (by 8 votes) into Romney’s column, thus giving Romney a winning 286–252 margin in the Electoral College. The table is sorted according to the simulated Republican percentage in column 4.

Table 9.43 Simulated uniform shift producing a 1,962,965-vote nationwide lead for Romney

State
Romney
Obama
R-percent
R- Margin
D-Margin
R-EV
D-EV
D.C.
29,261
259,190
10.14%
 
229,928
 
3
HI
132,699
294,974
31.03%
 
162,275
 
4
VT
100,674
191,263
34.48%
 
90,590
 
3
NY
2,675,506
4,281,797
38.46%
 
1,606,292
 
29
RI
169,140
267,741
38.72%
 
98,602
 
4
MD
1,044,259
1,605,454
39.41%
 
561,195
 
10
CA
5,186,765
7,507,478
40.86%
 
2,320,714
 
55
MA
1,273,268
1,836,336
40.95%
 
563,067
 
11
DE
176,632
231,436
43.29%
 
54,803
 
3
NJ
1,576,464
2,024,410
43.78%
 
447,946
 
14
CT
676,964
863,011
43.96%
 
186,047
 
7
IL
2,276,043
2,878,685
44.15%
 
602,642
 
20
ME
311,225
382,357
44.87%
 
71,133
 
4
WA
1,373,889
1,672,177
45.10%
 
298,289
 
12
OR
801,293
923,370
46.46%
 
122,077
 
7
NM
356,309
394,814
47.44%
 
38,506
 
5
MI
2,243,109
2,436,716
47.93%
 
193,607
 
16
MN
1,398,535
1,467,857
48.79%
 
69,322
 
10
WI
1,493,799
1,538,152
49.27%
 
44,353
 
10
NV
490,749
504,191
49.32%
 
13,442
 
6
IA
773,049
780,112
49.77%
 
7,062
 
6
NH
349,028
350,451
49.90%
 
1,423
 
4
CO
1,253,570
1,254,478
49.98%
 
908
 
9
PA
2,835,358
2,835,350
50.00%
7
 
20
 
VA
1,926,183
1,868,159
50.76%
58,025
 
13
 
OH
2,811,367
2,677,661
51.22%
133,706
 
18
 
FL
4,391,783
4,006,523
52.29%
385,259
 
29
 
NC
2,391,936
2,056,850
53.77%
335,086
 
15
 
GA
2,183,939
1,668,576
56.69%
515,362
 
16
 
AZ
1,295,367
963,519
57.35%
331,848
 
11
 
MO
1,556,374
1,149,862
57.51%
406,513
 
10
 
IN
1,490,849
1,082,581
57.93%
408,268
 
11
 
SC
1,124,580
813,006
58.04%
311,574
 
9
 
MS
745,543
528,152
58.53%
217,392
 
6
 
MT
280,762
189,005
59.77%
91,757
 
3
 
AK
172,525
114,791
60.05%
57,735
 
3
 
TX
4,785,069
3,092,898
60.74%
1,692,171
 
38
 
LA
1,205,848
755,555
61.48%
450,292
 
8
 
SD
220,326
135,323
61.95%
85,004
 
3
 
ND
196,879
116,407
62.84%
80,472
 
3
 
TN
1,528,527
894,512
63.08%
634,016
 
11
 
KS
723,597
409,763
63.85%
313,835
 
6
 
NE
496,296
280,849
63.86%
215,446
 
5
 
AL
1,311,975
739,646
63.95%
572,330
 
9
 
KY
1,135,452
631,108
64.27%
504,345
 
8
 
AR
676,216
365,937
64.89%
310,278
 
6
 
WV
435,501
220,313
66.41%
215,188
 
5
 
ID
438,224
195,474
69.15%
242,749
 
4
 
OK
927,794
407,078
69.50%
520,715
 
7
 
WY
177,526
62,722
73.89%
114,803
 
3
 
UT
767,713
224,700
77.36%
543,012
 
6
 
Total
64,395,737
62,432,772
 
 
 
286
252
 

In other words, it takes a national popular vote lead of almost two million votes to yield a simulated win for Romney in the Electoral College using this method of simulation.

If Romney’s simulated lead were to be increased slightly beyond the 1,962,965-vote nationwide lead shown in table 9.43, Colorado (nine electoral votes), New Hampshire (four electoral votes), Iowa (six electoral votes), and Nevada (six electoral votes) would move into the Republican column.

Of course, no future election will exactly replicate the state-by-state percentage contour of the two major parties in 2012. President Obama cannot run for another term, and Governor Romney will almost certainly not be a candidate in 2016. Candidates with different personalities and records will compete on the basis of different issues in a political environment consisting of a different history of immediate past events and changed demographics.

Nonetheless, the simulations in table 9.42 and table 9.43 certainly do not support the notion of the existence today of an “electoral lock” in favor of the Republican Party.

9.31.10 MYTH: The rural states would lose their advantage in the Electoral College under a national popular vote.

QUICK ANSWER:

  • The facts are that the current state-by-state winner-take-all method of awarding electoral votes diminishes the influence of rural states because rural states are generally not battleground states.

The mythology that the current state-by-state winner-take-all method of awarding electoral votes is advantageous to rural states is not supported by the facts.

Tara Ross, an opponent of the National Popular Vote plan, writes:

NPV will lessen the need of presidential candidates to obtain the support of voters in rural areas and in small states.”[588] [Emphasis added]

Hans von Spakovsky has stated:

“The NPV scheme would … diminish the influence of smaller states and rural areas of the country.”[589]

The opposite is the case.

Political influence in the Electoral College is based on whether the state is a closely divided battleground state. The current state-by-state winner-take-all method of awarding electoral votes does not enhance the influence of rural states, because most rural states are not battleground states.

Table 9.44 shows, for each state, the rural population (column 2 using the 2000 definition found in the Statistical Abstract of the United States), the state’s total population (column 3), the rural percentage (column 2 divided by column 3), and the rural index (obtained by dividing the state’s rural percentage by the overall national rural percentage of 20.11%). 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. Thirty-three states have an index above 100 (meaning that more than 20.11% of their population is rural), whereas 18 have an index below 100 (that is, they are less rural than the nation as a whole).

Table 9.44 Rural population of the United States

State
Rural population
Total population
Rural percent
Rural index
Vermont
376,379
621,000
60.61%
301
Maine
762,045
1,317,000
57.86%
288
West Virginia
975,564
1,815,000
53.75%
267
Mississippi
1,457,307
2,903,000
50.20%
250
South Dakota
363,417
771,000
47.14%
234
Arkansas
1,269,221
2,753,000
46.10%
229
Montana
414,317
927,000
44.69%
222
North Dakota
283,242
634,000
44.68%
222
Alabama
1,981,427
4,530,000
43.74%
218
Kentucky
1,787,969
4,146,000
43.13%
214
New Hampshire
503,451
1,300,000
38.73%
193
Iowa
1,138,892
2,954,000
38.55%
192
South Carolina
1,584,888
4,198,000
37.75%
188
North Carolina
3,199,831
8,541,000
37.46%
186
Tennessee
2,069,265
5,901,000
35.07%
174
Wyoming
172,438
507,000
34.01%
169
Oklahoma
1,196,091
3,524,000
33.94%
169
Alaska
215,675
655,000
32.93%
164
Idaho
434,456
1,393,000
31.19%
155
Wisconsin
1,700,032
5,509,000
30.86%
153
Missouri
1,711,769
5,755,000
29.74%
148
Nebraska
517,538
1,747,000
29.62%
147
Indiana
1,776,474
6,238,000
28.48%
142
Kansas
767,749
2,736,000
28.06%
140
Minnesota
1,429,420
5,101,000
28.02%
139
Louisiana
1,223,311
4,516,000
27.09%
135
Georgia
2,322,290
8,829,000
26.30%
131
Virginia
1,908,560
7,460,000
25.58%
127
Michigan
2,518,987
10,113,000
24.91%
124
New Mexico
455,545
1,903,000
23.94%
119
Pennsylvania
2,816,953
12,406,000
22.71%
113
Ohio
2,570,811
11,459,000
22.43%
112
Oregon
727,255
3,595,000
20.23%
101
Delaware
155,842
830,000
18.78%
93
Washington
1,063,015
6,204,000
17.13%
85
Texas
3,647,539
22,490,000
16.22%
81
Colorado
668,076
4,601,000
14.52%
72
Maryland
737,818
5,558,000
13.27%
66
New York
2,373,875
19,227,000
12.35%
61
Connecticut
417,506
3,504,000
11.92%
59
Illinois
1,509,773
12,714,000
11.87%
59
Utah
262,825
2,389,000
11.00%
55
Arizona
607,097
5,744,000
10.57%
53
Florida
1,712,358
17,397,000
9.84%
49
Rhode Island
95,173
1,081,000
8.80%
44
Massachusetts
547,730
6,417,000
8.54%
42
Hawaii
103,312
1,263,000
8.18%
41
Nevada
169,611
2,335,000
7.26%
36
New Jersey
475,263
8,699,000
5.46%
27
California
1,881,985
35,894,000
5.24%
26
D.C.
0
554,000
0.00%
0
Total
59,061,367
293,658,000
20.11%
100
 

As can be seen from table 9.44, the 10 most rural states are:

  • Vermont (60.61% rural),
  • Maine (57.86% rural),
  • West Virginia (53.75% rural),
  • Mississippi (50.20% rural),
  • South Dakota (47.14% rural),
  • Arkansas (46.10% rural),
  • Montana (44.69% rural),
  • North Dakota (44.68% rural),
  • Alabama (43.74% rural), and
  • Kentucky (43.13% rural).

None of the 10 most rural states is a closely divided battleground state. The battleground states that receive attention in presidential campaigns are generally not rural states.

In contrast, under the National Popular Vote compact, votes cast in rural states would all become politically relevant.

9.31.11 MYTH: A national popular vote would be a guarantee of corruption because every ballot box in every state would become a chance to steal the Presidency.

QUICK ANSWER:

  • Under the current system of electing the President, every vote in every precinct matters inside every battleground state. If it were true that an election in which the winner is the candidate who receives the most popular votes is “a guarantee of corruption,” then we should see today a wealth of evidence of rampant fraud in presidential elections inside every battleground state. Similarly, we should see evidence of rampant fraud today in every gubernatorial election in every state.
  • Executing electoral fraud without detection requires a situation in which a very small number of people can have a very large impact.
  • Under the current state-by-state winner-take-all system, there are huge incentives for fraud and mischief, because a small number of people in a battleground state can affect enough popular votes to swing all of that state’s electoral votes.
  • In 2004, President George W. Bush had a nationwide lead of 3,012,171 popular votes. However, if 59,393 Bush voters in Ohio had shifted to Senator John Kerry, Kerry would have carried Ohio and thus become President. It would be far easier for potential fraudsters to manufacture 59,393 votes in Ohio than to manufacture 3,012,171 million votes (51 times more votes) nationwide. Moreover, it would be far more difficult to conceal fraud involving three million votes.
  • In 2012, a shift of 214,390 popular votes in four states (Florida, Ohio, Virginia, and New Hampshire) would have elected Governor Romney as President, despite President Obama’s nationwide lead of almost five million votes. It would be far easier for potential fraudsters to manufacture 214,390 votes in four states than to manufacture five million votes nationwide (23 times more votes). Moreover, it would be far more difficult to conceal fraud involving five million votes.
  • There were seven closely divided battleground states possessing 102 electoral votes that President Obama carried and that had Republican Attorneys General in November 2008. President Obama received 95 more electoral votes than the 270 electoral votes necessary for election. Where were the prosecutions for election fraud in these states in the period immediately following the November 2008 election?

The 2012 Republican National Platform states that electing the President by a national popular vote would be

“a guarantee of corruption as every ballot box in every state would become a chance to steal the Presidency.”[590]

Under the current system of electing the President, every vote in every ballot box matters inside every closely divided battleground state and therefore today represents “a chance to steal the Presidency.”

If an election in which the winner is the candidate who receives the most popular votes is “a guarantee of corruption,” then we should see voluminous evidence today of rampant corruption inside every battleground state in every presidential election and, in particular, the elections of 2000, 2004, 2008, and 2012.

Similarly, every vote in every precinct matters in gubernatorial elections today in all 50 states. If conducting a popular-vote election is “a guarantee of corruption,” then we should see evidence today of rampant fraud in every gubernatorial election in all 50 states.

Executing electoral fraud without detection requires a situation in which a very small number of people can have a very large impact. Under the current state-by-state winner-take-all system, there is a huge payoff for fraud and mischief in the closely divided battleground states, because a small number of people in a battleground state can use a small number of popular votes to flip 100% of that state’s electoral votes.

Under the current state-by-state winner-take-all system, those who wish to cheat know exactly where they need to go in order to potentially sway the national outcome (namely the battleground states).

In 2012, a shift of 214,390 popular votes in four states (Florida, Ohio, Virginia, and New Hampshire) would have elected Governor Romney as President, despite President Obama’s nationwide lead of 4,966,945 votes.[591] It would be far easier for potential fraudsters to manufacture 214,390 votes in four states than to manufacture five million votes nationwide (23 times more votes). Moreover, it would be far more difficult to conceal fraud involving five million votes.

In 2004, President George W. Bush had a nationwide lead of 3,012,171 popular votes. However, if 59,393 Bush voters in Ohio had shifted to Senator John Kerry, Kerry would have carried Ohio and thus become President. It would be far easier for potential fraudsters to manufacture 59,393 votes in Ohio than to manufacture 3,012,171 million votes (51 times more votes) nationwide. Moreover, it would be far more difficult to conceal fraud involving three million votes.

In 2000, a significant number of electoral votes were determined by a relatively small number of popular votes:

  • Florida—537 votes,
  • Iowa—4,144 votes,
  • New Hampshire—7,211 votes,
  • New Mexico—366 votes,
  • Oregon—6,765 votes, and
  • Wisconsin—5,708 votes.

None of these blocks of votes was large in comparison to the nationwide margin of 537,179 in the national popular vote in 2000.

In the 1950s and 1960s, accusations of voter fraud by both political parties were commonplace in numerous states. In the 1960 presidential election, a switch of 4,430 votes in Illinois and a simultaneous switch of 4,782 votes in South Carolina would have denied Kennedy a majority of the electoral votes. Four thousand votes in two states would not have been decisive in 1960 in terms of changing the outcome if the outcome had been based on the national popular vote. John F. Kennedy led Richard M. Nixon by 118,574 popular votes nationwide. The potential switch of 4,430 or 4,782 votes was only relevant in 1960 because of the state-by-state winner-take-all rule.

In short, the outcome of a presidential election is less likely to be affected by fraud with a single large nationwide pool of votes than under the current state-by-state winner-take-all system.

As former Congressman and presidential candidate Tom Tancredo (R–Colorado) wrote in an article entitled “Should Every Vote Count?”

“The issue of voter fraud … won't entirely go away with the National Popular Vote plan, but it is harder to mobilize massive voter fraud on the national level without getting caught, than it is to do so in a few key states. Voter fraud is already a problem. The National Popular Vote makes it a smaller one.”[592]

U.S. Senator Birch Bayh (D–Indiana) summed up the concerns about possible fraud in a 1979 Senate speech by saying:

“Fraud is an ever present possibility in the electoral college system, even if it rarely has become a proven reality. With the electoral college, relatively few irregular votes can reap a healthy reward in the form of a bloc of electoral votes, because of the unit rule or winner take all rule. Under the present system, fraudulent popular votes are much more likely to have a great impact by swinging enough blocs of electoral votes to reverse the election. A like number of fraudulent popular votes under direct election would likely have little effect on the national vote totals.
“I have said repeatedly in previous debates that there is no way in which anyone would want to excuse fraud. We have to do everything we can to find it, to punish those who participate in it; but one of the things we can do to limit fraud is to limit the benefits to be gained by fraud.
Under a direct popular vote system, one fraudulent vote wins one vote in the return. In the electoral college system, one fraudulent vote could mean 45 electoral votes, 28 electoral votes.
“So the incentive to participate in ‘a little bit of fraud,’ if I may use that phrase advisedly, can have the impact of turning a whole electoral block, a whole State operating under the unit rule. Therefore, so the incentive to participate in fraud is significantly greater than it would be under the direct popular vote system.”[593] [Emphasis added]

At any given time, there are about two dozen Republican and about two dozen Democratic state Attorneys General. Specifically, there were 26 Republican state Attorneys General and 24 Democratic Attorneys General in November 2012. There are also, at any given time, roughly two thousand Republican county prosecuting attorneys and roughly a thousand Democratic county prosecuting attorneys.

If conducting an election in which the winner is the candidate receiving the most popular votes is “a guarantee of corruption,” then we should have seen a voluminous number of prosecutions for election fraud in presidential elections in battleground states (and in gubernatorial elections in all 50 states).

Where are the prosecutions?

In November 2008, there were Republican Attorneys General in seven closely divided battleground states that Barack Obama carried. These states possessed more electoral votes (102) than Obama’s 95-vote margin of victory in the Electoral College in 2008:

  • Colorado (9 electoral votes),
  • Florida (27),
  • Michigan (18),
  • New Hampshire (4),
  • Pennsylvania (21),
  • Virginia (13), and
  • Wisconsin (10).

Were these seven Republican Attorneys General derelict in the period immediately following the November 2008 election in fulfilling their legal duty to prosecute crime in their own states?

Are these seven Republican Attorneys General also guilty of not promoting the interests of their own political party in attempting to prosecute cases of election fraud that would, at the minimum, embarrass (if not convict) members of the Democratic Party?

If it were actually true that an election in which the winner is the candidate receiving the most popular votes is

“a guarantee of corruption as every ballot box in every state would become a chance to steal the Presidency,”[594]

then we should surely have seen a voluminous number of prosecutions involving the tens of thousands of ballot boxes in these seven outcome-determining states in the period immediately following the 2008 election.

In November 2012, there were Republican Attorneys General in most of the battleground states that determined the outcome of the 2012 presidential election:

  • Florida—29 electoral votes,[595]
  • Ohio—18 electoral votes,
  • Virginia—13 electoral votes,
  • Wisconsin—10 electoral votes,
  • Colorado—9 electoral votes,
  • Pennsylvania—20 electoral votes, and
  • Michigan—16 electoral votes.

These seven battleground states with Republican Attorneys General together possessed 115 electoral Votes. President Obama won each of these battleground states by low-single-digit margins. In 2012, President Obama received only 64 more than the 270 electoral votes necessary for election.

As of the time of this writing, there have been no reports of prosecutions involving the tens of thousands of ballot boxes in these seven outcome-determining states in the 2012 presidential election.

If it is conceded that fraud is not rampant today in presidential elections in the battleground states (or gubernatorial elections in all 50 states), then why would one suddenly expect a massive outbreak of criminal activity in the 40 or so states that are currently politically irrelevant in the presidential election if the National Popular Vote compact were to become operative?

9.31.12 MYTH: Fraud is minimized under the current system because it is hard to predict where stolen votes will matter.

QUICK ANSWER:

  • It is not hard to predict where stolen votes will matter under the current state-by-state winner-take-all system of electing the President. Stolen votes matter in the closely divided battleground states.

Tara Ross, an opponent of the National Popular Vote plan, made the following comment about fraud under the current state-by-state winner-take-all system of electing the President:

“Fraud is minimized because it is hard to predict where stolen votes will matter.”[596]

Contrary to what Ross asserts, there is no difficulty in determining where stolen votes will matter—they matter in the closely divided battleground states.

The battleground states are well-known to anyone who follows politics. For example, in a July 2012 article describing his “3-2-1 strategy,” Karl Rove identified six states that he believed would probably decide the 2012 election.[597] Most political observers agreed with Rove’s list of states.

Five and a half months before Election Day in 2012, Mitt Romney acknowledged the small number of battleground states during a fund-raising dinner in Boca Raton, Florida. In the May 17, 2012, Mother Jones video, Romney said:

“All the money will be spent in 10 states.”

The 2012 Obama campaign, of course, operated on a similar basis.

In October 2000, the New York Times reported:

The parties and the presidential candidates are concentrating their campaigns in Florida in these last, tense days before the election on the cities and towns along Interstate 4.
“The nearly three million voters who live more or less along the maddeningly overcrowded, 100-mile-long highway that bisects the state from Daytona Beach on the Atlantic Coast to the Tampa Bay on the Gulf of Mexico are the swing voters in this, the largest of the swing states.
“They may be getting more attention these days than any other voters in the country as the candidates compete for Florida’s 25 electoral votes.
“‘This state is the key to this election,’ Vice President Al Gore declared at a rally in Orlando earlier this month, ‘and Central Florida is the key to this state.’”[598] [Emphasis added]

Under the current state-by-state winner-take-all system, those who wish to cheat know exactly where they need to go in order to potentially sway the national outcome. In 2000, for example, a significant number of electoral votes were determined by a small handful of popular votes:

  • Florida—537 votes,
  • Iowa—4,144 votes,
  • New Hampshire—7,211 votes,
  • New Mexico—366 votes,
  • Oregon—6,765 votes, and
  • Wisconsin—5,708 votes.

Under a National Popular Vote, the amount of fraud that would have to be perpetrated to impact the outcome of an election would be so massive that it could not go unnoticed.

9.31.13 MYTH: The 2000 election illustrates the Republican Party’s structural advantage under the current state-by-state winner-take-all system.

QUICK ANSWER:

  • The Republicans won the 2000 presidential election because of George W. Bush’s 537-vote margin in Florida—not because of any built-in Republican structural advantage conferred by the state-by-state winner-take-all rule.
  • It is impossible to say whether Al Gore would have been elected President in 2000 under the National Popular Vote system, because the campaign would have been conducted very differently.

It is sometimes argued that the Republican victory in the 2000 election is evidence that the Republican Party has a built-in structural advantage under the current state-by-state winner-take-all system.

George W. Bush won Florida by a margin of 537 popular votes out of 5,963,110 votes cast.

When an election is decided by a margin of 537 votes out of 5,963,110, numerous factors (large and small) necessarily affected the outcome.

We select two relatively minor and politically neutral factors to make the point that Bush’s 537-vote margin in Florida can be explained by entirely accidental factors operating locally in Florida—not any built-in Republican structural advantage conferred by the state-by-state winner-take-all rule.

A 2007 study in The Journal of Politics analyzed the effect of the weather on election outcomes:

“Using GIS interpolations, we employ meteorological data drawn from over 22,000 U.S. weather stations to provide election day estimates of rain and snow for each U.S. county. We find that, when compared to normal conditions, rain significantly reduces voter participation by a rate of just less than 1% per inch, while an inch of snowfall decreases turnout by almost .5%. Poor weather is also shown to benefit the Republican party’s vote share.…
“The results of the zero precipitation scenarios reveal only two instances in which a perfectly dry election day would have changed an Electoral College outcome. Dry elections would have led Bill Clinton to win North Carolina in 1992 and Al Gore to win Florida in 2000. This latter change in the allocation of Florida’s electors would have swung the incredibly close 2000 election in Gore’s favor. Of course, the converse is that a rainier day would have increased George W. Bush’s margin and may have reduced the importance of issues with the butterfly ballot, overvotes, etc.”[599] [Emphasis added]

A Democratic election administrator in one county designed a ballot that presented the candidates’ names in a confusing arrangement (the so-called “butterfly ballot”). The ballot’s confusing arrangement resulted in third-party candidate Pat Buchanan receiving thousands of votes that were, as Buchanan acknowledged, almost certainly intended for Al Gore. A paper in the American Political Science Review agreed with Buchanan’s assessment and concluded that this action by a Democratic election administrator was alone sufficient to cause Gore to lose Florida.

“The butterfly ballot used in Palm Beach County, Florida, in the 2000 presidential election caused more than 2,000 Democratic voters to vote by mistake for Reform candidate Pat Buchanan, a number larger than George W. Bush’s certified margin of victory in Florida.…
“Multiple methods and several kinds of data [were used] to rule out alternative explanations for the votes Buchanan received in Palm Beach County.…
“In Palm Beach County, Buchanan’s proportion of the vote on election-day ballots is four times larger than his proportion on absentee (non-butterfly) ballots, but Buchanan’s proportion does not differ significantly between election-day and absentee ballots in any other Florida county.
“Unlike other Reform candidates in Palm Beach County, Buchanan tended to receive election-day votes in Democratic precincts and from individuals who voted for the Democratic U.S. Senate candidate.”
“Among 3,053 U.S. counties where Buchanan was on the ballot, Palm Beach County has the most anomalous excess of votes for him.”[600]

Immediately prior to Election Day in 2000, neither Republicans nor anyone else thought that there was any structural advantage working in favor of the Republican Party because of the state-by-state winner-take-all rule. In the week before Election Day in 2000, most polls indicated that George W. Bush was poised to win the national popular vote—but not necessarily the electoral vote. Indeed, the Bush campaign was planning for just that eventuality. As the New York Daily News reported on Wednesday November 2, 2000, “Bush [is] set to fight an Electoral College loss.”

“Quietly, some of George W. Bush’s advisers are preparing for the ultimate ‘what if’ scenario: What happens if Bush wins the popular vote for President, but loses the White House because Al Gore won the majority of electoral votes?”
“‘The one thing we don’t do is roll over,’ says a Bush aide. ‘We fight.’
“How? The core of the emerging Bush strategy assumes a popular uprising, stoked by the Bushies themselves, of course.
“In league with the campaign—which is preparing talking points about the Electoral College’s essential unfairness—a massive talk-radio operation would be encouraged. ‘We’d have ads, too,’ says a Bush aide, ‘and I think you can count on the media to fuel the thing big-time. Even papers that supported Gore might turn against him because the will of the people will have been thwarted.’
“Local business leaders will be urged to lobby their customers, the clergy will be asked to speak up for the popular will and Team Bush will enlist as many Democrats as possible to scream as loud as they can. ‘You think ‘Democrats for Democracy’ would be a catchy term for them?’ asks a Bush adviser.
“The universe of people who would be targeted by this insurrection is small—the 538 currently anonymous folks called electors, people chosen by the campaigns and their state party organizations as a reward for their service over the years.…
“Enough of the electors could theoretically switch to Bush if they wanted to—if there was sufficient pressure on them to ratify the popular verdict.”[601]

9.31.14 MYTH: Al Gore would have been elected President under a national popular vote in 2000.

QUICK ANSWER:

  • It is impossible to say whether Al Gore would have been elected President in 2000 under the National Popular Vote system, because the campaign would have been conducted very differently.
  • Soliciting every available vote is a strategic necessity when the winner of an election is the candidate who receives the most popular votes.

There is no way to say whether Al Gore would have become President had the 2000 campaign been conducted under the National Popular Vote plan.

The 2000 campaign would have been conducted very differently if the candidates had gone into the election under a different electoral system.

The pattern of candidate travel and advertising would have been entirely different under a national popular vote because candidates would have solicited votes in every state—not just 15.

Candidates certainly would not have ignored 35 or so states during the campaign. Candidates would not have concentrated their efforts so heavily on Florida. Candidates would certainly not have ignored Ohio (as they did in the 2000 campaign).

The issues discussed in the 2000 campaign would have been different because the candidates would have had to appeal to more than just the battleground-state voters.

Footnotes

[555] Tancredo, Tom. Should every vote count? November 11, 2011. http://www.wnd.com/index.php?pageId=366929.

[556] Detailed reports on all of these polls (and others), including the cross-tabs, are available at the web site of National Popular Vote at http://www.nationalpopularvote.com/polls.

[557] The exception is that George W. Bush carried New Hampshire in 2000.

[558] The exception is that Bill Clinton carried Montana in 1992 (undoubtedly because of Ross Perot’s presence on the ballot).

[559] A 46%–54% margin is generally viewed as the boundary that places a state out of reach for the opposition during a typical presidential campaign (as discussed in section 1.2.1). Thus, the Democrats secured all the electoral votes from these three states (Delaware, Hawaii, and Maine) without having to devote any effort or money to win them.

[560] Nebraska awards three of its five electoral votes by congressional district. In 2008, Barack Obama won one electoral vote by carrying the 2nd congressional district of Nebraska (the Omaha area). Thus, Nebraska’s electoral votes in 2008 were divided 4–1 in favor of McCain. In 2012, Governor Romney won all three of Nebraska’s congressional districts.

[561] Tancredo, Tom. Should every vote count? November 11, 2011. http://www.wnd.com/index.php?pageId=366929.

[562] Von Spakovsky, Hans A. Protecting Electoral College from popular vote. Washington Times. October 26, 2011.

[563] See table 2.1 for the distribution of electoral votes for the elections between 1992 and 2020.

[564] Arizona has voted Republican in every presidential election since 1952, except for Johnson’s win in 1964 and Clinton’s win in 1996, Obama lost Arizona in 2008 by only 8%, despite Arizona being John McCain’s home state. The Obama campaign tested the waters in Arizona in 2012 to determine whether it might become a battleground state. The growth of the state’s Hispanic population has suggested that Arizona might soon become a battleground state. As a result, the Obama campaign opened numerous campaign offices in Arizona in early 2012. However, Arizona did not become a battleground state in 2012. The 2012 Obama campaign made similar explorations in Georgia.

[565] Mahtesian, Charles. Obama’s Texas battleground prediction. Politico. July 18, 2012.

[566] Hallman, Tristan. Obama: Texas will be a battleground state “soon.” Dallas Morning News. July 17, 2012. The quote from Obama was “You’re not considered one of the battleground states, although that’s going to be changing soon.”

[567] Von Spakovsky, Hans A. Protecting Electoral College from popular vote. Washington Times, October 26, 2011.

[568] McConnell, Mitch. The Electoral College and National Popular Vote Plan. December 7, 2011. Washington, DC.

[569] Note that Gillespie’s statement that the 11 biggest states possessed 56% of the nation’s population was correct according to the 2000 census, but not according to the 2010 census. Hence, criticisms of this genre are couched in terms of both 11 and 12 states.

[570] Gillespie, Ed. National Popular Vote compact won't be popular, or democratic. Washington Examiner. January 30, 2012.

[571] Letter dated June 29, 2011.

[572] Belenky, Alexander S. 2008. A 0-1 knapsack model for evaluating the possible Electoral College performance in two-party U.S. presidential elections. Mathematical and Computer Modelling. Volume 48. Pages 665–676.

[574] In 2004, Bush received 62,040,610 votes nationwide and Kerry received 59,028,439 votes. Bush’s nationwide margin of victory was 3,012,171 votes. Bush received 51.2% of these 121,069,049 votes.

[575] In 2012, Obama received 65,897,727 votes nationwide and Romney received 60,930,782 votes. Obama’s nationwide margin of victory was 4,966,945 votes. Obama received 51.96% of these 126,828,509 votes.

[576] The 2012 election returns shown in table 9.35, table 9.36, table 9.45, and appendix HH were obtained from the National Archives and Record Administration (NARA) web site at http://www.archives.gov/federal-register/electoral-college/2012/popular-vote.html. The NARA web site presents the number of votes shown on each state’s Certificate of Ascertainment. There are two differences between our tables and that on the NARA web site. First, the NARA web site presents votes by party, whereas our table is based on votes by candidate. This difference in treatment creates a difference in the case of New York (which uses fusion voting). The NARA web site (as of January 4, 2013) showed the 141,056 votes that the Obama-Biden slate received on the Working Families Party line (and contained in New York’s Certificate of Ascertainment) as minor-party votes in column 6 of their table, instead of showing these votes as Obama-Biden votes in column 2 of their table. Similarly, the web site shows the 256,171 votes that the Romney-Ryan slate received on the Conservative Party line as minor-party votes in column 6, instead of showing these votes as Romney-Ryan votes in column 3. Our table puts these Obama-Biden votes and Romney-Ryan votes in columns 2 and 3, respectively, in conformity with the practice of the New York State Board of Elections. Thus, our table shows (in column 6) only 8,652 votes for minor-party candidates in New York. See section 2.10 for additional details on fusion in New York and figure 2.11 for an example of a presidential ballot in New York. Secondly, our table reflects the adjustment (certified on December 31, 2012) to New York state’s vote totals resulting from the fact that an executive order issued on the evening before Election Day allowed voters in counties affected by Hurricane Sandy to cast a provisional ballot at any polling place in the state. A total of 400,629 additional ballots (over 300,000 in New York City alone) were counted as a result of this executive order.

[577] Samples, John. A Critique of the National Popular Vote Plan for Electing the President. Cato Institute Policy Analysis No. 622. October 13, 2008.

[578] The debate at the Sutherland Institute on January 20, 2012, in Salt Lake City involved Dr. John R. Koza, Chair of National Popular Vote, Claremont College Professor Michael Uhlmann, and Trent England (a lobbyist opposing the National Popular Vote compact and Vice-President of the Evergreen Freedom Foundation of Olympia, Washington). The event was moderated by Sutherland President Paul T. Mero.

[579] The Nielsen “Live+3” ratings track both live airings and DVR playback (through 3:00 A.M.). Based on November 2011 DMA.

[580] Shapiro, Ari. Ads slice up swing states with growing precision. NPR. September 24, 2012. http://www.npr.org/2012/09/24/161616073/ads-slice-up-swing-states-with-growing-precision.

[581] Edwards, George C., III. 2011. Why the Electoral College Is Bad for America. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press. Second edition. Page 46.

[582] U.S. Constitution. Article I, section 2, clause 3. The provisions concerning indentured servants, “Indians not taxed,” and slaves (“other persons”) are not applicable today.

[583] No doubt, the reason why the Constitution specified that the census would count “persons,” instead of trying to count eligible voters, was that the states had complicated and widely varying criteria for voter eligibility in 1787. In most states, eligibility depended on property, wealth, or income. Moreover, the requirements for voting often differed for the lower versus upper house of the state legislature.

[584] The mathematical formula is presented at https://www.census.gov/population/apportionment/about/computing.html. The history of methods used to apportion seats in the U.S. House of Representatives is discussed at https://www.census.gov/population/apportionment/about/history.html. The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the “method of equal proportions” in 1992 in Department of Commerce v. Montana (112 S.Ct. 1415) and Franklin v. Massachusetts (112 S.Ct. 2767).

[585] Steinhorn, Leonard. Without voting, noncitizens could swing the election for Obama. Washington Post. October 5, 2012.

[586] Bishop, Bill. 2008. The Big Sort: Why the Clustering of Like-Minded America Is Tearing Us Apart. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

[587] Nine of the states in table 9.41 that voted Democratic once or twice between 1992 and 2012 did so during the Clinton years. Since then, these nine states have voted Republican in presidential elections consistently between 2000 and 2012. These nine states are Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, Tennessee, West Virginia, Arizona, Georgia, and Montana. Thus, there are 41 states that have voted for the same party between 2000 and 2012.

[588] Written testimony submitted by Tara Ross to the Delaware Senate in June 2010.

[589] Von Spakovsky, Hans. Destroying the Electoral College: The Anti-Federalist National Popular Vote Scheme. Legal memo. October 27, 2011. http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2011/10/destroying-the-electoral-college-the-anti-federalist-national-popular-vote-scheme.

[590] 2012 Republican National Platform adopted in Tampa, Florida, on August 28, 2012.

[591] The four states involved are Florida (29 electoral votes), Ohio (18), New Hampshire (4), and Virginia (13). They cumulatively possess 64 electoral votes. A shift of 64 electoral votes would have given Mitt Romney the 270 electoral votes needed for election. See appendix HH for the two-party results of the 2012 election. Table 9.45 presents the presidential vote for Barack Obama (Democrat), Mitt Romney (Republican), Gary Johnson (Libertarian), Jill Stein (Green), and the other 22 minor-party and independent candidates who were on the ballot in 2012 in at least one state.

[592] Tancredo, Tom. Should every vote count? November 11, 2011. http://www.wnd.com/index.php?pageId=366929.

[593] Congressional Record. March 14, 1979. Page 5000.

[594] 2012 Republican National Platform adopted in Tampa, Florida, on August 28, 2012.

[595] The number of electoral votes shown here are those applicable to the 2012 presidential election.

[596] Written testimony submitted by Tara Ross to the Delaware Senate in June 2010.

[597] Rove, Karl. Romney’s roads to the White House: A 3-2-1 strategy can get him to the magic 270 electoral votes. Wall Street Journal. May 23, 2012.

[598] Rosenbaum, David E. The 2000 campaign: The Battlegrounds: Florida interstate’s heavy campaign traffic. New York Times. October 25, 2000.

[599] Brad T. Gomez, Brad T.; Hansford, Thomas G.; and Krause, George A. 2007. The Republicans should pray for rain: weather, turnout, and voting in U.S. Presidential Elections. The Journal of Politics. Volume 69, number 3. August 2007. Pages 649–663.

[600] Wand, Jonathan N.; Shotts, Kenneth W.; Sekhon, Jasjeet S.; Mebane, Walter R.; Herron, Michael C.; and Brady, Henry E. The butterfly did it: The aberrant vote for Buchanan in Palm Beach County, Florida. American Political Science Review. Volume 95. Number 1. December 2001. sekhon.berkeley.edu/elections/election2000/butterfly.review.pdf.

[601] Kramer, Michael. Bush set to fight an electoral college loss: They’re not only thinking the unthinkable, They’re planning for it. New York Daily News. November 1, 2000. http://articles.nydailynews.com/2000-11-01/news/18145743_1_electoral-votes-popular-vote-bush-aide.