Since Hillary Clinton is currently winning the popular vote by 2,833,224, people are calling for the abolishment of the Electoral College in favor of a direct popular vote. Many are saying that if we went to a direct popular vote there would be no swing states. I think that not only would we still have swing states, but we’d have swing cities, too. So I set out to prove that to myself. Quite interesting.
The main purpose of the Electoral College was, and still is in my opinion, to prevent the most populous states and cities from electing the president every four years. If one chose to ignore the least populous states, then could band together and do you in, something they could not do if it was a direct popular vote. Clinton did not go to Wisconsin at all, and didn’t set foot in Michigan until four days before the election. Two reliably blue states suddenly weren’t so reliably blue anymore; in fact, they turned a light shade of red.
What might have happened in 2016 if we had a direct popular vote? Let’s make some educated guesses.
The total population of the United States is 321,418,820 according to the Census Bureau 2015 estimate.
So far, 136,499,945 votes have been cast for presidential candidates in the 2016 election. So 42.46% of the population voted.
Of those votes, 65,788,567 have been for Clinton and 62,955,343 for Trump.
Let’s see what we would have to do to get to 65,788,567 if we had a direct popular vote.
Here are the Top 25 states by those 2015 population estimates:
California – 39,144,818
Texas – 27,469,114
Florida – 20,271,272
New York – 19,795,791
Illinois – 12,859,995
Pennsylvania – 12,802,503
Ohio – 11,613,423
North Carolina – 10,042,802
Georgia – 10,214,860
Michigan – 9,922,576
New Jersey – 8,958,013
Virginia – 8,382,993
Arizona – 6,828,065
Massachusetts – 6,794,422
Indiana – 6,619,680
Tennessee – 6,600,299
Missouri – 6,083,672
Maryland – 6,006,401
Wisconsin – 5,771,337
Minnesota – 5,489,594
Colorado – 5,456,574
South Carolina – 4,896,146
Alabama – 4,858,979
Louisiana – 4,649,676
Kentucky – 4,425,092
The Top 10 states have 174,137,154 people, 54.18% of the population
The Top 20 states have 241,671,630 people, 75.19% of the population.
The Top 25 states have 265,958,097 people, 82.75% of the population.
That should tell us enough right there that there are going to be swing states with a direct popular vote.
I am going to take some liberties with numbers here because this is not a dissertation. I’m not going to go county by county in each state or city by city. To tedious, and I’m not getting paid for this research. So I’m going to use the numbers I cited above about population, votes, and percentage of the population that votes.
How can we get to 65,788,567 the easiest way?
Presuming that 42.46% of the population votes everywhere, here are the total number of votes in the Top 10, 20, and 25 states:
Top 10 states – 73,938,635
Top 20 states – 102,613,774
Top 25 states – 112,925,808
Quite a few votes there.
So far Clinton has taken 48.1967% of the votes. Trump has 46.1211% and other candidates have the remainder.
Here is what happens if Clinton takes 48.1967% of the Top 10, 20, and 25 states:
Top 10 – 35,635,982
Top 20 – 49,456,452
Top 25 – 54,426,512
With just 25 states, Clinton is 82.72% of the way to her 2016 popular vote total. Bring in those swing states!
Let’s look at cities. I’m going to use the Combined Statistical Area because my whole point here is that candidates want to spend their money wisely, which is why Clinton didn’t go to Wisconsin. It was safely Democratic. Not so wise, in retrospect. Here are the Top 20 Combined Statistical Areas:
New York-Newark – 23,723,696
Los Angeles-Long Beach – 18,679,763
Chicago-Naperville – 9,923,358
Washington-Baltimore-Arlington – 9,625,360
San Jose-San Francisco-Oakland – 8,713,914
Boston-Worcester-Providence – 8,152,573
Dallas-Fort Worth – 7,504,362
Philadelphia-Reading-Camden – 7,183,479
Houston-The Woodlands – 6,855,069
Miami-Fort Lauderdal-Port St Lucie – 6,654,565
Atlanta-Athens-Clarke-Sandy Springs – 6,365,108
Seattle-Tacoma – 4,602,591
Minneapolis-St. Paul – 3,866,768
Cleveland-Akron-Canton – 3,493,596
Denver-Aurora – 3,418,876
Orlando-Deltona-Dayton Beach – 3,129,308
Portland-Vancouver-Salem – 3,110,906
St. Louis-St. Charles-Farmington – 2,916,447
Pittsburgh-New Castle-Weirton – 2,648,605
Total population of the Top 20 CSA’s: 145,888,257
Using our 42.46 voting number again, there are 61,944,153 votes there, and Clinton would have received 29,855,038 of them. Almost half way there with just 20 areas. And look where those 20 areas are: 6 in the Midwest, 5 on the East Coast, 5 in the South, and 4 on the West Coast. Heck, we might have SWA’s, Swing Geographic Areas!
One could just campaign east of the Mississippi River and hit 16 of those CSA’s!
But I would submit that Republicans would never have a chance if we had a direct popular vote because cities are reliably Democratic. Don’t believe me? Go check the cities in the reddest of the red states, like Utah, Alabama, and Georgia. Every other state is just like that. It’s the suburbs and rural areas that decide the elections. Ooops. Back to swing areas, aren’t we? Rural areas are reliably Republican. Go look at Utah, Alabama, and Georgia again. So really we’re to the suburbs as the swing areas.
Now if money and time are important when out on the campaign trail, does anyone really believe that candidates are going to go anywhere other than to the big metropolitan areas with their many suburbs? We would have lots of swing cities.
I’m a reliably blue guy in a reliably red city in a reliably blue state, except that my city this election turned blue. Not only that, but Orange County, a suburb of Los Angeles, has been reliably red since 1932. Ooopsy. It turned blue this election.
The more people have to live in close proximity to people who are different, the more those people are tolerant of differences, even accepting of them. So I should be all for a direct popular vote. I’m not. I will put aside my self interest for the good of the nation. Without the Electoral College, a super majority of those red states would always feel neglected. No candidate would visit them and even if they banded together, they would never have a say. The cities would be too powerful. I do believe that eventually there would be another war between the states.
So instead of going to a direct popular vote, I think we should return to the practices of my generation where each family had four children minimum and up to nineteen, the highest I personally know of—I come from a Mormon (mom) and Catholic (dad) family. The more people we have, the more progressive we become!
Alternately, we could do like Maine and Nebraska do. Each state gets a minimum of three electoral votes, two for its two senators and one for its congressional district. In the case of Maine and Nebraska, the two senatorial electoral votes go to the winner of the popular vote in the states, and the congressional district electoral votes go to the winner of the popular vote in each congressional district. That allows both urban and rural areas to have a say in each state. If we did that here in California, the state would be about evenly split because of our large rural areas.