1. Florida Politics

Romano: One person, one vote is not really accurate when it comes to Florida

Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections worker Andrea West adds mail ballots to an inserter Sept. 22 at the Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections Service Center in Largo. (SCOTT KEELER   |   Times)
Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections worker Andrea West adds mail ballots to an inserter Sept. 22 at the Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections Service Center in Largo. (SCOTT KEELER | Times)
Published Sep. 22, 2017

Imagine this:

Your mail-in ballot for the St. Petersburg mayoral election has just arrived. According to the fine print, if you live on the west side of the city, your ballot will count as one vote. Meanwhile, a ballot in St. Pete's northeast section counts for three votes.

Crazy, right? You wouldn't put up with that.

And yet, when it comes to the presidential election, we sort of do. All 12 million of us voters in Florida.

Let me explain:

The website Axios.com recently looked at the number of Electoral College votes in each state compared to the actual number of votes cast per state in the 2016 presidential election.

The results were not kind to Florida. In fact, you might even call them infuriating.

Basically, the numbers show that a presidential vote in Florida has less value than anywhere else in the country. There are even a handful of other states where a single vote theoretically has three times the impact of one in Florida.

Now, this isn't exactly earth-shattering news. The Electoral College, by its very design, gives outsize weight to states with smaller populations. But it was fascinating, and kind of depressing, to realize how far down the food chain individual voters in Florida are, even compared to other high-population states.

There are two main reasons for this:

1. Electoral College votes are determined by a state's congressional seats. Since House of Representatives seats are based on population, there's not much of a discrepancy from that end. The problem is in the Senate. Since every state has two Senate seats, places such as Vermont, Alaska and Wyoming get the same two electoral votes as Florida, despite having a fraction of the population.

2. Florida also has a much better voter turnout than a lot of states. Particularly other large-population states. For instance, Texas has about 7 million more residents than Florida, which means 38 electoral votes compared to 29. And yet Florida sent about a half-million more voters to the polls in the 2016 presidential election than Texas did.

From Florida's point of view, the problem is we are penalized for being conscientious. The combination of a lot of voters and a high turnout means we give up a great deal of our impact so that smaller states can have a larger say in the Electoral College.

Axios shows Florida had roughly 327,700 voters for every Electoral College vote, which was easily the highest (i.e. the worst) ratio in the nation. New York was 17th (266,300), California was 19th (258,900) and Texas was 25th (236,700). Meanwhile, Wyoming got an electoral vote for every 85,300 voters, Vermont one for every 105,000.

So should you feel cheated?

"I don't think Florida voters should be too upset," said Michael McDonald, a political science professor at the University of Florida who has done studies for the United States Elections Project.

"Those Electoral College numbers are correct, but that's just one way of looking at it. The other way is that Florida is a critical battleground state, a tipping point, which gives Florida much more power in presidential elections than California or Texas or New York."

Completely true. And probably the proper way to view it.

Because, in the end, your vote is not really worthless. It's just that, in comparison to the other 49 states, your vote is worth less.


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