The Electoral College Blues, Take 2

By Fraser Perkins —

Last month I looked at the allocation of electoral votes based on the population of each state.  Wyoming had the lowest population per electoral vote at 192,000 people per vote, while Texas had the highest at 763,000 people per vote, narrowly edging out California for this crown of thorns.

This month I’ll look at how many votes in each state count for nothing in the Electoral College.   Maine and Nebraska use the Congressional District Method of elector selection, while all other states allocate all their electoral votes for the winning presidential candidate in their state.  As a result, “winner-takes-all” disenfranchises Democrats in red states and Republicans in blue states.  This leads to more than a few questions…

What percentage of voters are impacted?

Is there any difference comparing 2016 to 2020?

Is this important?

This table summarizes the data.  2020 figures are preliminary.  I ignored the district procedure used by Maine and Nebraska and treated them as winner-takes-all states; purists may quibble.

2016 2020
Total Votes Cast 136,669,276 154,236,061
Votes for Losing Candidates – Total of Every State 60,574,947 67,636,754
Losing Votes – Percent of Ballots Cast 44.4% 43.8%


What’s remarkable is how close the percentages are for both years.  In the 2016 and 2020 Presidential Elections over two in five votes were cast for losing candidates in all the states, yet these votes didn’t count in the Electoral College.

Let’s look a little deeper and ask what percent of votes cast for losing presidential candidates occurred in “landslide” states where the winning margin between the two major candidates was over 10%.

This table summarizes the data – same caveats as Table 1.

2016 2020
Total Votes Cast 136,669,276 154,236,061
Votes for Losing Candidates -Total of Every State 28,968,132 35,595,188
Losing Votes – Percent of Ballots Cast 21.2% 23.1%


The increase in percent between 2016 and 2020 is partially explained by Colorado, New Mexico and Virginia which became “landslide” blue states in 2020 with winning margins greater than 10%.

I believe this is important.

Over two in five votes cast for president don’t count in the Electoral College.

Moreover, one in five voters knows going into the voting booth that their vote is unlikely to matter in the presidential race.

There is also an interesting historical aspect of the Electoral College.

What party has won the popular vote yet lost the Electoral College vote?

Year Winner of Pop Vote/Lost in Electoral College Party
1824 Jackson Dem
1876 Tilden Dem
1888 Cleveland Dem
2000 Gore Dem
2016 Clinton Dem


Five times the Democratic candidate won the popular vote, yet lost in the Electoral College.

The message is clear – the way we elect presidents needs to be changed.

Next newsletter I’ll present some options.


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