How illegal immigrants inflate the electoral college

Illegal immigrants and other non-citizens don’t have the right to vote, of course.  But, as required by the Constitution, they ARE counted in the census that determines the population of states for the allocation of congressional representatives.  That means a state with large numbers of non-citizens can get more electoral votes, which determine presidential elections, than it would have otherwise.  The breakdown favors the Democrats.  Leonard Steinhorn, a professor at American University, gives the analysis:

An Obama victory could hinge on a quirk in the Constitution that gives noncitizens, a group that includes illegal immigrants and legal permanent residents, a say in electing the president of the United States.

As required by Article I and the Fourteenth Amendment, the decennial census, which allocates to each state its congressional seats and Electoral College votes, is based on a count of all people who live in the United States, citizens and noncitizens alike — or as the Constitution phrases it, “the whole number of persons in each state.” That means millions of noncitizens who are ineligible to vote are included in Electoral College calculations, and that benefits some states over others. Most of these noncitizens are here legally; however, the Pew Hispanic Center estimates that about 45 percent of noncitizens are undocumented immigrants.

In 2010 and most previous years, the census did not inquire about citizenship, but the American Community Survey (ACS), which samples our population every month, includes a breakdown of citizens and noncitizens. Plugging the 2010 ACS citizen-only numbers into the Census Bureau’s apportionment formula shows that five states benefit electorally from their noncitizen populations: New York, Florida and Washington each gain one congressional seat and thus one Electoral College vote; Texas gains two; and California — with 5,516,920 noncitizens out of a total population of 37,341,989 — gains five.

Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, North Carolina, Indiana, Iowa, Missouri, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Montana each lose a seat under the official formula as compared with an apportionment that counts citizens only. . . .

Looking at how the states might vote in November, there is no scenario in which Mitt Romney benefits from the inclusion of noncitizens in the Electoral College calculation, but there are several in which Obama could gain three to five Electoral College votes, thus deciding a close election.

via Without voting, noncitizens could swing the election for Obama – The Washington Post.

Prof. Steinhorn gives some reasons why it makes sense to count everybody, citizen or not, though he says the impact on presidential elections needs to be remedied by eliminating the electoral college.

Do you have any other solutions?  Or is this not really a problem?

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • steve

    Do something about the illegal immigration problem and the electoral college isn’t a problem.

  • steve

    Do something about the illegal immigration problem and the electoral college isn’t a problem.

  • Random Lutheran

    Nothing to see here — just another let’s-get-rid-of-the-electoral-college, hatred-of-living-in-a-Republic article. Anything to give politicos even more reason to ignore anything and anyone outside the major metropolitan areas.

  • Random Lutheran

    Nothing to see here — just another let’s-get-rid-of-the-electoral-college, hatred-of-living-in-a-Republic article. Anything to give politicos even more reason to ignore anything and anyone outside the major metropolitan areas.

  • fws

    random Lutheran +1

  • fws

    random Lutheran +1

  • http://homewardbound-cb.blogspot.com ChrisB

    The funny part is at least one of the states benefitting (TX) is very red and not likely to support pro-illegal immigrant policies or candidates.

    Anyway, this problem can and probably should be fixed. We need to preserve the system that requires presidential candidates to win a majority of the states, not just a majority of the people. I shudder to think what would happen if someone could win just by getting all the votes in the coastal states.

  • http://homewardbound-cb.blogspot.com ChrisB

    The funny part is at least one of the states benefitting (TX) is very red and not likely to support pro-illegal immigrant policies or candidates.

    Anyway, this problem can and probably should be fixed. We need to preserve the system that requires presidential candidates to win a majority of the states, not just a majority of the people. I shudder to think what would happen if someone could win just by getting all the votes in the coastal states.

  • Derek Muller

    There are many non-voters included in the total population count: ex-felons (in many states), felons (in almost all states), children, the mentally ill. And even if one eliminated the Electoral College, one would still be obligated to count all of these non-voting populations, because the census enumeration awards House seats based on total population, not based on citizens or voters.

  • Derek Muller

    There are many non-voters included in the total population count: ex-felons (in many states), felons (in almost all states), children, the mentally ill. And even if one eliminated the Electoral College, one would still be obligated to count all of these non-voting populations, because the census enumeration awards House seats based on total population, not based on citizens or voters.

  • Cincinnatus

    If we eliminate the electoral college, we may as well just give up any remaining pretense we have to living in a federal republic.

  • Cincinnatus

    If we eliminate the electoral college, we may as well just give up any remaining pretense we have to living in a federal republic.

  • fws

    cinn @ 6

    I would love to see the federal senate again elected by the state legislators. one more layer between the democratic majority and those who govern us.

  • fws

    cinn @ 6

    I would love to see the federal senate again elected by the state legislators. one more layer between the democratic majority and those who govern us.

  • Nathanael Snow

    Of course, this flows directly from the south’s concern about representation. Slaves needed to count for something.
    But, interestingly, when the constitution was written there was no such thing as an “illegal alien.” Immigration was not restricted at the federal level until late in the 1800s.
    If representation matters for human rights reasons, then counting not-yet-citizens (how can a person be illegal?) makes sense.
    To really fix the problem, lift the existing quotas on migration and allow a market process to determine the number of people living and working in America.

  • Nathanael Snow

    Of course, this flows directly from the south’s concern about representation. Slaves needed to count for something.
    But, interestingly, when the constitution was written there was no such thing as an “illegal alien.” Immigration was not restricted at the federal level until late in the 1800s.
    If representation matters for human rights reasons, then counting not-yet-citizens (how can a person be illegal?) makes sense.
    To really fix the problem, lift the existing quotas on migration and allow a market process to determine the number of people living and working in America.

  • SKPeterson

    Frank @ 7 – I would agree that direct election of senators has not been the panacea against corruption that its supporters claimed. I think it would be better to return the Senate to the control of the states; it would restore some balance and protection for the rural from urban, and the small from the large. It would also make state elections far more relevant.

  • SKPeterson

    Frank @ 7 – I would agree that direct election of senators has not been the panacea against corruption that its supporters claimed. I think it would be better to return the Senate to the control of the states; it would restore some balance and protection for the rural from urban, and the small from the large. It would also make state elections far more relevant.

  • fws

    skp

    I am basically in favor of anything that thwarts the impulsive and manipulatable will of the majority in favor of representative power and and appointed judiciary beyond the reach of a one or two year election cycle.

    I love the idea of requiring several election cycles to overturn the judiciary or install any amendment to a constitution, and a very very high bar to impeachment.

    In short, I do not agree that majority rule is less a tyranny than a dictatorship. there is nothing fair about the 51% dictating to the 49%.

    I am not sure that trying to balance rural with urban also is right if it is rural minority wanting to having its way against the urban majority. That too can be an abuse of process and power.

    i suggest that the problem is that we americans focus on “rights”. I think that is a very shakey and arbitrary and nebulous concept to base anything upon.

    Better to focus on the duty of the majority of deference to unpopular minorities and the duty of those who have towards those who have less. But in a sinful world, this simply would not work. trying to realize this ideal looks alot like the end results found in the soviet union and cambodia. true morality starts with me, and alway is about me and my duty towards others.

    conservatism, liberalism, constitutionalism, communism and all the other isms, even republicanism, are usually and always eventually about old adam avoiding looking in the mirror at his duties in favor of self justification to greed and selfishness based upon “principles”.

    So it happens that we end up with governments that are usually unjust and punishingly so, precisely because we as individuals do not do willingly the self sacrifice that true morality demands of us.

    Lord have mercy.

  • fws

    skp

    I am basically in favor of anything that thwarts the impulsive and manipulatable will of the majority in favor of representative power and and appointed judiciary beyond the reach of a one or two year election cycle.

    I love the idea of requiring several election cycles to overturn the judiciary or install any amendment to a constitution, and a very very high bar to impeachment.

    In short, I do not agree that majority rule is less a tyranny than a dictatorship. there is nothing fair about the 51% dictating to the 49%.

    I am not sure that trying to balance rural with urban also is right if it is rural minority wanting to having its way against the urban majority. That too can be an abuse of process and power.

    i suggest that the problem is that we americans focus on “rights”. I think that is a very shakey and arbitrary and nebulous concept to base anything upon.

    Better to focus on the duty of the majority of deference to unpopular minorities and the duty of those who have towards those who have less. But in a sinful world, this simply would not work. trying to realize this ideal looks alot like the end results found in the soviet union and cambodia. true morality starts with me, and alway is about me and my duty towards others.

    conservatism, liberalism, constitutionalism, communism and all the other isms, even republicanism, are usually and always eventually about old adam avoiding looking in the mirror at his duties in favor of self justification to greed and selfishness based upon “principles”.

    So it happens that we end up with governments that are usually unjust and punishingly so, precisely because we as individuals do not do willingly the self sacrifice that true morality demands of us.

    Lord have mercy.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “To really fix the problem, lift the existing quotas on migration and allow a market process to determine the number of people living and working in America.”

    How long would it take the US to get to a billion people with that policy? 10 years? 20? Looking forward to having a billion people here are you? Most of them very poor and unskilled. Won’t that be grand?

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “To really fix the problem, lift the existing quotas on migration and allow a market process to determine the number of people living and working in America.”

    How long would it take the US to get to a billion people with that policy? 10 years? 20? Looking forward to having a billion people here are you? Most of them very poor and unskilled. Won’t that be grand?

  • DonS

    You see this effect dramatically in congressional House elections here in CA. In our district, for example, which is Republican and conservative, a typical general election vote count will be about 200,000. In central L.A., in a strongly Democratic district, it might be 40,000. There are very few voters in many of those districts, each of which corresponds to an electoral vote.

    Two things to note: 1) Though Democrats might be favored by this effect, by as many as 7 or 8 electoral votes, that effect is more than offset by small states’ over-representation in the Electoral College. To exemplify this, note that California has some 30 million legal residents, and a corresponding 57 electoral votes, for a ratio of about 525,000 residents per electoral vote. Wyoming has some 568,000 residents, which we will assume are all legal, and 3 electoral votes, for a ratio of about 190,000 residents per electoral vote. Because the Constitution deliberately favors smaller rural states over larger urban ones, it is statistically possible for a Republican presidential candidate to win the presidency in the Electoral College without winning a majority of the popular vote, as Bush did, but inconceivable under any realistic scenario for the Democrat to do likewise.

    2) Both the Electoral College and the advantage accorded to small states (because each state gets two senators) are enshrined in the Constitution. The inclusion of non-citizens in the census count is similarly enshrined. The only way to change them is by Constitutional amendment. Not likely to happen. Yes, I know about the National Popular Vote Movement, but that will never get enough states on board to actually go into effect.

    The system is what the system is.

  • DonS

    You see this effect dramatically in congressional House elections here in CA. In our district, for example, which is Republican and conservative, a typical general election vote count will be about 200,000. In central L.A., in a strongly Democratic district, it might be 40,000. There are very few voters in many of those districts, each of which corresponds to an electoral vote.

    Two things to note: 1) Though Democrats might be favored by this effect, by as many as 7 or 8 electoral votes, that effect is more than offset by small states’ over-representation in the Electoral College. To exemplify this, note that California has some 30 million legal residents, and a corresponding 57 electoral votes, for a ratio of about 525,000 residents per electoral vote. Wyoming has some 568,000 residents, which we will assume are all legal, and 3 electoral votes, for a ratio of about 190,000 residents per electoral vote. Because the Constitution deliberately favors smaller rural states over larger urban ones, it is statistically possible for a Republican presidential candidate to win the presidency in the Electoral College without winning a majority of the popular vote, as Bush did, but inconceivable under any realistic scenario for the Democrat to do likewise.

    2) Both the Electoral College and the advantage accorded to small states (because each state gets two senators) are enshrined in the Constitution. The inclusion of non-citizens in the census count is similarly enshrined. The only way to change them is by Constitutional amendment. Not likely to happen. Yes, I know about the National Popular Vote Movement, but that will never get enough states on board to actually go into effect.

    The system is what the system is.

  • Carl Vehse

    fws@7: “I would love to see the federal senate again elected by the state legislators. one more layer between the democratic majority and those who govern us.”

    And while we’re at it, we can overturn the 19th and 24th amendments. That should eliminate some (but not all) of the riff-raff that get deposited in public office.

  • Carl Vehse

    fws@7: “I would love to see the federal senate again elected by the state legislators. one more layer between the democratic majority and those who govern us.”

    And while we’re at it, we can overturn the 19th and 24th amendments. That should eliminate some (but not all) of the riff-raff that get deposited in public office.

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