It’s the day of the presidential election. You go to the polling place, proud to exercise your rights and have a voice as an American citizen. The volunteer hands you a ballot, where you can cast your single vote for president.
But then you notice the volunteer hands the voter next to you three ballots. Three.
Wait — what?
No, it’s not clandestine voter fraud, it’s kind of how our electoral college works. Except that you are a voter in one of 21 states in the nation that has only one-third, or even less, of the voting power of the lesser populated states in the nation, or a voter in another 20 states that have less than half of the voting influence on the Electoral College.
The U.S. is the only democracy in the world where a presidential candidate can get the most popular votes and still lose the election, writes Joshua Holzer, an assistant professor of political science at Westminster College, for The Conversation.
The winner of the statewide popular vote generally takes all the Electoral College votes for that state.
Each state is assigned a number equal to its two Senate seats plus its seats in the House of Representatives.
Wyoming, with a population of 563,626, which determines its three Electoral College votes, has the fewest people of any state. California has 66 times as many people -- but only 18 times as many Electoral College votes.
Wyoming has about 188,000 voters per electoral vote, while California has 677,345 voters per electoral vote -- about 3.6 times as many voters per Electoral College delegate. Even the second smallest state, Vermont, has 62,000 more residents than Wyoming but still only three electoral votes, meaning a vote in Vermont counts as only 90% of a vote in Wyoming.
Using Wyoming as a base, and assigning the voters of that state 100% influence on the presidential election, voters in every other state in the nation have less voting power than those in Wyoming. This is how much voting power you have in your state in a presidential election, assuming everyone votes, and starting with California, where voters have the least voting power of those in Wyoming -- 27.7%. Electoral votes and populations are based on 2010 census data from the U.S. Census Bureau.