Which states have the most say in elections? It depends on how you count.


Alina Snopkowski, Editor

With the talk about Washington, D.C. possibly becoming its own state, conversations have arisen about D.C., which traditionally votes strongly Democratic, gaining its own senators and representatives. “Taxation without representation” (or, in some cases, “end taxation without representation”) is the slogan on D.C. license plates, and a reason often given for why D.C. should have representatives in Congress. But with a population greater than only Vermont and Wyoming, D.C.’s representation in congress, which would almost certainly mean two more Democratic senators and an additional Democratic representative, means many Republicans are opposed to the plan.

Writer’s note: There would still be 435 representatives, but D.C. would get one, which means another state would lose one of theirs. To be honest, I’m not sure how they calculate that, and it’s not really the point of this article, so I’m not going to go into it here.

But how valid are these claims, anyway? And are there states that are better off than D.C. in terms of how many votes they get compared to the size of their population? I was curious.

So, using the 2019 state population estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau (the most recent numbers available) and some Excel tables, I determined which states get the most “bang for their buck,” so to speak, in terms of how much of their population is represented by a single representative in the House of Representatives and electoral vote in presidential elections. Here’s what I found.

How many people are represented by one electoral vote?

Image by Alina Snopkowski, created with mapchart.net

Here, I divided the state’s total population by the number of electoral votes that state (and D.C.) gets. I used the total population, not the voting-age or voting-eligible population. Oftentimes the claim arises that the electoral college favors the states with smaller populations and gives them more than their ‘fair share’ of electoral votes, which appears to be pretty true — large states such as California and Texas have over 700,000 people to each electoral vote, while Wyoming has less than 200,000 — but, as shown in the map above, some states are certainly ‘better off’ under this system than others.

Which states are above and below average for representation per electoral vote?

Image by Alina Snopkowski, created with mapchart.net

By dividing the country’s total population by 538, the total number of electoral votes, I got the average amount of people that one electoral vote would represent if these votes were allocated based on that system (if you’re curious, it comes out to about 610,000 people per electoral vote). The above map shows which states are currently above and below that average.

In 2020, which party got more votes than they ‘should have?’

Image by Alina Snopkowski, created with mapchart.net

Here’s where it gets interesting. To find the numbers for this map, I divided the state’s total population by the average-per-vote number I found earlier (the ~610,000). By subtracting the state’s actual number of allocated electoral votes from that new number, I was able to see how many votes each state would get if they were divided up this way. Using this system, each state would get at least one vote (we’d have to round up just a little bit for Wyoming, since the state’s population is less than 610,000), and some would get many more — Texas and California would both gain ten votes, bringing their totals from 38 to 48 and 55 to 65, respectively.

The above map compares the current system for dividing electoral votes with the division system I used and breaks down which states, by party, received more or fewer electoral votes in the real 2020 election than they would have using the other system. For example, in the current system of allocating electoral votes, Pennsylvania gets 20. If these votes were divided up using the ~610,000 number, Pennsylvania would have roughly 21 electoral votes — a difference of one that, in 2020, would have gone to the Democrats. In Delaware the situation is opposite — the state currently has three electoral votes, but with the other calculations it would get two, which means the Democrats in 2020 got an ‘extra’ vote there.

When all these ‘extra’ and ‘missing’ votes are tallied up, states that voted Republican in 2020 had about 21 ‘extra’ votes and about 19 ‘missing’ ones. For states that voted Democrat in 2020, they were ‘missing’ about 20 and had about 18 ‘extra.’

Note about Nebraska and Maine: These states split their electoral votes instead of having a winner-take-all system, and I wasn’t sure how to deal with that. Nebraska’s votes were 4 republican and 1 democrat and Maine’s were 3 Democrat and 1 Republican, and each state has one ‘extra’ vote, so I just factored Nebraska into the Republican count and Maine into the Democrat one).

How many people are represented by each state’s representatives in the House?

Image by Alina Snopkowski, created with mapchart.net

Last but not least, let’s go back to D.C. I did the math on this one in the same way as the first electoral college map: total population divided by number of representatives in the House. I found this one a little bit perplexing — Delaware and Montana are at the bottom of the list with the most people ‘sharing’ a representative, and, while Wyoming is, not surprisingly, again in the category with the fewest people to one representative, West Virginia, which also had a fairly low number of people to one electoral vote, but not that low, is also included at a similar level as Wyoming in this map. The state with the fewest people to each representative is actually Rhode Island, with about 530,000 people sharing a representative. Montana, at the opposite end, has a whopping 1,068,778 people for their sole representative.

Where does D.C. fall into all of this? If D.C. got one representative, the district’s population of about 706,000 would all be represented by that single person — putting it in twelfth place overall when states are ranked by the fewest-to-highest number of people accounted for by their representatives.

So, what’s the point of all of this information? Really, I just like math and maps and was curious about how the states compare to each other. I’m not a political scientist and I’m not suggesting we change the current electoral college allocation system to the one I used for my calculations, but I do think it’s interesting to think about.

Writer’s note: If you’re interested in any of my numbers and whatnot, email me and I’ll send you the Excel spreadsheet.

Why stop at statehood for D.C.? All U.S. states to become their own countries


Alina Snopkowski, Professional Political Analyst

“So, what do you all think about this D.C. situation?” When Virginia Governor Ralph Northam posed the question at the weekly U.S. governors group Zoom meeting on Monday, March 29, he was just trying to spark some conversation so National Governors Association Chair and Governor of New York Andrew Cuomo wouldn’t put them into breakout rooms.

Maryland Governor Larry Hogan shared his opinion right away. “Some people are saying Maryland might just absorb D.C., but, frankly, we don’t really want them.”

“Honestly, I wouldn’t mind,” Daniel McKee, governor of Rhode Island, said, “then Rhode Island wouldn’t be the smallest state.”

“D.C. as a state,” Texas Governor Greg Abbott scoffed, “that’s ridiculous. They just want to have their own senators. If they become a state, Texas will just leave and become its own country. Don’t mess with Texas.”

Silence fell over the zoom call as the governors pondered Abbott’s comments. Although they would only admit it later, many senators had considered proposing such a thing, but Abbott’s words made them realize that someone else had a similar idea.

After that instrumental Zoom meeting, the governors moved quickly and contacted their state governments. By Wednesday, March 31, all state governments had drafted some sort of proposal to officially become their own countries. Every state will vote on these proposals within the next two weeks, and it is expected that all will pass with overwhelming margins. Every state has something to gain from becoming its own country, and every governor has held a press conference in the past few days explaining why their state — soon to be country — will be in a better position in the future.

“We used to be our own country,” Vermont Governor Phil Scott explained, “we can go back to the good old days when we didn’t have to answer to the U.S. government.”

“When we become our own country,” Delaware Governor John Carney said, “Delaware will continue its proud tradition of having no sales taxes. We also have a great tourism sector with the Delaware Beaches, and we will now be able to generate extra revenue for the country by charging visitors from other countries special prices to visit these areas.”

“We’ll finally be moving the capital from Harrisburg to Philadelphia,” Pennsylvania’s Tom Wolf said, “most people think the capital is Philadelphia anyway, and it has a cooler nickname — ‘the City of Brotherly Love’ — Harrisburg’s nickname is literally just ‘Pennsylvania’s Capital City,’ which it won’t be for long.”

“I think one of the most important symbols of a country is its flag,” Maryland’s Hogan explained, “and Maryland has the best state flag in the country, currently, so as our own country we’d have the best flag in the world.”

The Philadelphia Inquirer

Current governor of Pennsylvania Tom Wolf is excited to change the future country’s capital to Philadelphia.

There will be 50 new countries in the world after the U.S. splits apart, although not all the states will retain their current borders. Washington D.C. will become its own country, while the states of South and North Dakota will merge into one entity simply called “New Dakota” in a bid to increase the future country’s population to at least a million people. The border between Wisconsin and Michigan would be redrawn so the upper peninsula would belong to Wisconsin.

In regards to the proposed change in borders, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer remarked, “This plan makes perfect sense. Only 3% of Michigan’s population lives up there, so it’s not like we’re losing much. We also wouldn’t have to pay to maintain the Mackinac Bridge, and we can funnel that money into Detroit tourism instead. It’s a win-win.”

However, there are, of course, some expected problems when changing these states into countries.

“We have a slight issue because there’s already a country called Georgia,” Georgia (the state) Governor Brian Kemp said, “I didn’t know about it until last week, actually, when one of my staffers brought it to my attention. I think it’s in Asia or something. So we’d have to change our name. Or we could sue them for rights to the name. I think we have a pretty good shot at winning that.” In a similar vein, governor of New Mexico Michelle Lujan Grisham remarked that “with New Mexico in the process of becoming its own country, we have already begun a conversation with President of Mexico Andrés Manuel López Obrador in regards to the name situation. We might be changing our name to North Mexico, and they would be South Mexico.”

These new countries will still be strongly connected. All former U.S. states intend to belong to a newly proposed union called the Union of Former American States (UFAS), not to be confused with the UFAS that is the Uniform Federal Accessibility Standards, which will no longer exist because the U.S. federal government will not exist. UFAS would help put regulations in place for trade, travel and work between the new countries.

With the recent news that President Biden is rolling aimlessly through the White House in a wheelchair, babbling incoherently, this move to separate the states could not come at a better time. Taking control of the U.S. away from Biden is both a necessary move and one that, given his current state, the president will likely not be able to oppose (or even notice).