The imperative of acing Electoral College 101

President* Trump,

I know this is something of a theme by now, but I need to credit you with pushing me to learn all sorts of things that never would’ve occurred to me to learn pre-you. To be sure, I was probably exposed to much of it in a long-ago high school civics class, but I don’t have one of those brains that retains everything so if I don’t perceive something to be useful or relevant (to me…. sigh….) then out it goes.

So, today’s mini-lesson has to do with how Electoral College votes are apportioned. I’m sure to 16 or 17 year old me this was a dry bit of information that only needed to be held long enough to spit back on a test. I’m 99.9% sure that everything about the EC was conveyed to me as a factoid completely devoid of meaning or heft. In other words, I don’t think that either the EC’s racist origins were explained nor do I think we were taught that it results in the under-weighting of votes from more populated states. I’m also certain that there was no substantive conversation about the fact that the number of electoral votes allotted to each state is the same as the number of Congressional House of Representatives delegates from each state + 2 for each Senator and that the number of House delegates is determined by the Census.

Highly relevant to the Census angle is that there’s a fixed number of electoral votes (538), which breaks down to 100 for each Senator, 3 for DC, and 435 apportioned amongst the states.

Do you see where I’m going with this?

No? Not really? I don’t believe you. If you all didn’t compromise the 2020 Census largely to reapportion the House seats and the Electoral College votes amongst the states, then down is up and up is down. Yes, I realize that such a reset won’t take place until 2024, but you scheming conservatives are in this for the long haul and if you can nudge some power away from solid blue states to solid red states to hedge those 2024 bets, then of course that’s what you’ll do.

I found a website that maps out the number of Electoral College votes by state over time (https://www.270towin.com/state-electoral-vote-history/). Tallying up the changes from 2008 to 2012 (2010 obviously being when the last Census was conducted), there was actually quite a lot of movement and that was in a time when I don’t think there were any shady shenanigans affecting the Census count. What I found is that states that stayed red gained 8 EC votes and lost 2 while states that stayed blue gained 4 and lost 10 (the pluses and minuses balance out such that 12 EC votes moved around). Also, just so you know, none of the states with EC vote movement changed color over those two election cycles.

I was actually surprised to see how the numbers worked out as I really thought it would be that more red states had lost EC votes than blue states, but apparently not. Seeing this amps my concerns about the 2024 apportionment up even more. I sure as hell hope Biden can completely blow the map up this year and win a slew of previously red states (and re-establish old blue stalwarts that went astray last time around). I also hope that he and his administration have some plan for salvaging the Census because we really, truly do need an accurate count of all of us since so very many things are dependent on those numbers being right.

The last thing I’ll say (for now) about the EC is that it was rather delicious to find out mid-day today that Hillary gets to be one of the 29 NY electoral voters. She’s basically assured of getting to do a happy dance to beat all happy dances when she casts her vote for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. Ha!

May we be safe from evil cheats.
May we be willing to bother understanding the details of our governance.
May we find strong, solid ways to make the relevance of those details abundantly clear.
May we accept that we can’t park our civic engagement and expect things to go well.

Sincerely,
Tracy Simpson

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