YouGov's Will Jordan made an interesting observation over the weekend: California, the nation's largest state and home to 12 percent of its population, still has more ballots to count than were cast in 34 states and Washington, D.C.
Unsurprisingly, California is already recording more votes cast than any other state, according to U.S. Election Atlas. But the 2.8 million ballots left to count are more than were cast in Wyoming, Alaska, D.C., Vermont, the Dakotas, Hawaii and Delaware combined. Not all will be valid ballots, but most should be, further extending Hillary Clinton's 1.7 million-vote lead in the national popular vote.
Because of how the electoral college is structured, even small states get a minimum number of electors (just as they get a minimum number of senators and representatives). The lowest-population and lowest-vote-tally states — such as Wyoming and Alaska — end up getting more electors-per-voter than does a place like California. This leads to the perception that the electoral college is hopelessly tilted toward those smaller states.
Interestingly, though, that's not really the case. California is in about the middle of the pack in terms of the number of electors each voter is worth. If all 2.8 million of those ballots are determined to be valid, though, the state will sink into the lower third.
But notice how evenly distributed those red and blue bars are in either of those columns. Donald Trump won a lot of states where the voters are underrepresented in the electoral college, just as he won a lot where the voters are overrepresented.
In fact, on average across states, places where Trump won had slightly fewer electors per voter than did Clinton states. On average, voters in states Clinton won were worth 5.28-millionths of an elector. (In other words, for every million voters, the state got 5.28 electors in the electoral college.) In states Trump won, the voters were worth 5.14-millionths — meaning they were slightly undervalued. (This is all assuming that Trump holds Michigan.)
But there are two big caveats to that. The first is that all of the electors in every state won by one of the candidates went to that elector. (Save one elector in Maine.) That means that Clinton voters in places like Michigan — which was essentially a tie — got no electors representing their vote, just as Trump voters in California got none representing theirs. The second is that California alone receiving a below-average number of electors per voter means that millions of voters are underrepresented, as opposed to, say, Iowa, where the voters are more underrepresented — but there are far fewer of them.
The core dynamic of the election was that Clinton won her states big and Trump won his narrowly. That's why the House is Republican, too: Democrats winning huge margins in many districts while Republicans win more narrow victories and the majority. Overall, Trump votes were worth 4.94-millionths of an elector apiece, compared to 3.65-millionths for each Clinton voter.
That's the hard-to-reconcile problem. As many Trump supporters have pointed out, removing California from the equation brings things into balance: Trump wins the popular vote and the electoral college. Things don't get much more equal, mind you, but at least the top-line results are more in line.
The only problem with that plan, of course, is that California exists.