How the Electoral College changes the value of a person, a bit like slavery did
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At the Constitutional Convention of 1787, a curious compromise was struck.  Southern states wanted slaves counted when determining how representatives to Congress would be apportioned.  Ultimately, Northern states agreed to treat each slave as 3/5ths of a person for such purposes.

Given the unprecedented results of the 2016 presidential election, we began wondering whether some Americans are once again worth more than others.  At the moment, Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonObama slams Trump in Miami: 'Florida Man wouldn't even do this stuff' Ballot initiatives in Colorado, Louisiana could restrict abortion access Trump mocks Joe Biden's drive-in rallies at North Carolina event MORE is currently ahead in the popular vote by about 2.4 million votes nationwide, but President-elect Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpObama slams Trump in Miami: 'Florida Man wouldn't even do this stuff' Trump makes his case in North Carolina, Ohio and Wisconsin Pence's chief of staff tests positive for COVID-19 MORE will become president because he will receive a majority of the Electoral College votes when the 538 members of that group submit their votes to Vice President Biden on Dec. 19.


A discrepancy between the popular vote and the electoral vote has occurred three times before in U.S. history, but never to this extent. Al GoreAlbert (Al) Arnold GoreFox News president warns of calling winner too soon on election night: 2000 still 'lingers over everyone' Older voters helped put Trump in office; they will help take him out Debate is Harris's turn at bat, but will she score? MORE lost the electoral vote in 2000 but won the popular vote by 540,000 votes; Clinton’s margin might reach 2.6 million votes.

With a discrepancy this large, people in some states have necessarily become more valuable than people in other states. We decided to apply our statistical skills to this issue—partly out of curiosity but also in order to quantify a new kind of inequality that the Electoral College has made possible in the U.S.

In the table below, we have listed the 50 U.S. states, plus the District of Columbia (which gets three electoral votes), in an order that reveals the extraordinary extent of this new inequality. The right-most column is the critical one. It shows the relative value that residents of each state now have. A value of 1.0—which applies to Alabama, Arizona, Connecticut, South Carolina, and Texas—corresponds to that old idea of “one person, one vote." 




Unfortunately, the other 45 states, plus the District of Columbia, don’t measure up to that idea.

Values less than 1 mean that voters in those states are, well, a bit like the slaves of old (although slaves couldn’t vote, of course), and values greater than 1 signify a new breed of super-voters.  Unter-human states include Florida and North Carolina, where people are worth less than 3/4ths of what voters are worth in Texas (many Texans, including the first author’s wife, would agree), and Uber-human states include Alaska, DC, Hawaii, Vermont, and Wyoming, where people are worth more than twice what Texans are worth (so much for Texans) and nearly four times what Floridians are worth.

Note that many of the subhuman states are so-called “swing” states. This is because a higher proportion of eligible voters generally vote in those states, which—because the number of electoral votes stays fixed—lowers the value of each individual vote. Think about that:  More voters means less value per vote.  Does that make sense? Is democracy supposed to work that way?

Except for the presidency, all political elections in the U.S.—from first-grade class president to mayor to governor to U.S. senator—are won by simple majorities.  Democracy is—or so we are taught as children—the “rule of the majority.” Do we want to perpetuate a system that creates gross inequities between voters in different states and that violates the majority rule egregiously?

In 2012, Trump said “the Electoral College is a disaster for democracy,” and in his Nov. 13, 2016 interview with Leslie Stahl on 60 Minutes, he added, “I’m not going to change my mind [about the Electoral College] just because I won.” Will he take a leadership role in abolishing it? Time will tell.

Robert Epstein (@DrREpstein) is Senior Research Psychologist at the American Institute for Behavioral Research and Technology (AIBRT) and the former editor-in-chief of Psychology Today.  He is the author of 15 books and more than 250 scientific and popular articles, including a 2015 report on the Search Engine Manipulation Effect (SEME), published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Shu Zhang is a data analyst at AIBRT.

NOTE: The authors will update the Voter Value table shortly after final vote counts are released on Dec. 13.

The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the views of The Hill.