On Saturday, the Republicans of Washington finally got a chance to put their votes where their mouths were. Several thousand Republicans came out to vote in the federal city's primary, giving Marco Rubio a narrow victory over the establishment's other favorite son, John Kasich.
In total, about 2,800 people voted, with the city's 19 delegates being split nearly in half. Rubio earned about one delegate for every 100 votes he won, according to U.S. Election Atlas, a pretty neat calculus. Had the same formula held in Michigan, he would have come away with more than 1,200 delegates, nearly enough to win the nomination. But Michigan gave out only 59 total delegates, though 1.3 million people voted. And since Rubio didn't hit the minimum threshold, he came away with a total of zero delegates from the state.
All delegates are not created equal. Rubio has got only a few wins, but it has taken him far fewer votes on average to get each of his delegates. The same holds true for Bernie Sanders, who has won more smaller contests (in a Democratic race in which far more delegates are available).
Each of Trump's delegates in the 2016 primaries and caucuses represents about 12,600 statewide votes on average. Rubio's delegates represent about 8,500.
Below, a chart showing how much more or less valuable each state's voters are. D.C.'s are enormously powerful, with each voter representing a bit less than 1 percent of a delegate. In Michigan, each voter represents 0.004 percent of a delegate. (For the Democrats, the number of voters represented by each delegate from America Samoa is 40 -- technically rounding down to zero.)
The problem is a simple one: There's not a one-to-one ratio between the number of voters (or the number of Republicans in a state) and the number of delegates. Since the Republicans have fewer delegates in total, it means that they are essentially rounding chunks of voters off into delegates much more roughly. So you get the wide disparity between a D.C. and a Michigan. For voters in Washington, if they managed to wait out the lines, their votes meant a lot more.
Not that it does Rubio much good.