The use of the Electoral College rather than the popular vote to pick the eventual president means the presence of some 11-12 million illegal immigrants and noncitizens living legally in the United States could hinder Republicans' chances of winning the 2016 presidential race, a new report shows.
How? The answer lies in the nature of the country's Electoral College and how it bases selection of the president on the U.S. Census, which in turn credits states for total populations of both legal and illegal residents. The result is that states like Florida and California, which sizeable populations of illegals live in, carry more clout for their number of electoral votes.
"We understand counting illegal immigrants and non-citizens in the census," write Washington Post columnist Paul Goldman and George Mason University's Mark Rozell in an analysis for Politico.
"But we fail to find any persuasive reason to allow the presence of illegal immigrants, unlawfully in the country, or noncitizens generally, to play such a potentially crucial role in picking a President. Choosing a nation’s leader should be a privilege reserved for her citizens."
Only citizens have the right to vote, they say in their report, but delegates in the 1787 Constitutional Convention chose to use the Electoral College system and base it on overall population, distributing 538 electoral votes between the states. That, not the popular vote, is how Americans select their president.
Each state gets two electors, representing their two senators, and Washington D.C. gets three. But more than 80 percent of the total electors, or 435, are distributed to states according to members elected to the House, a number that depends on overall population.
Meanwhile, the 435 seats are reapportioned every decade, reflecting census-reported population changes, and are based on the "whole number" of people in the states. When some states end up with large immigrant populations, they get extra seats in the House, and as a result, an edge in the Electoral College.
This means states with high immigrant populations, like California, New York, and Washington, which lean Democrat, end up with more House seats and Electoral College votes than they would have if only citizens were counted, according to American University Scholar Leonard Steinhorn.
Without the immigrant populations, California would lose five House seats and five electoral votes, and New York and Washington would each lose one seat and one vote, for a total of seven electoral votes.
Meanwhile, Texas, a traditional GOP stronghold, would lose just two House and electoral seats if only citizens were counted, and in Florida, just one House and electoral seat would be lost.
Meanwhile, those 10 seats would go to states with small numbers of noncitizens, including Iowa, Indiana, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma and Pennsylvania.
But while many of those states have traditionally leaned Republican, Iowa has voted Democratic in six of the last seven elections, while Michigan and Pennsylvania have voted Democratic since 1992. But Indiana, Louisiana, Missouri, Montana, and Oklahoma all approved GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney by double digits in 2012, and Romney carried North Carolina by two percent while losing nationally by nearly four percent, a large difference.
The analysis shows that three states gaining electoral votes would be Democratic, but the remaining seven `would be Republican. By combining the two halves of the citizen-only reapportionment, Democratic states would lose four electoral votes while Republicans would gain four.
This is close enough to swing an election, the report points out, as Al Gore could have taken the 2000 election with a swing of three electoral votes.
A Republican ticket must be considered likely to carry all 24 states that went for Mitt Romney in the last election, for a total of 206 electoral votes. They will also need to carry the three biggest swing states, Florida, Ohio, and Virginia, to win the 270 electoral votes needed to take the White House.
Presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton is in a statistical tie in Florida against GOP frontrunner Donald Trump and behind by 11 percent to former Gov. Jeb Bush, and considering her negative favorability ratings, Republicans may take Florida.
She also would likely lose in Ohio, according to the report, but this time against popular Ohio Gov. John Kasich. And even though Obama won Virginia in 2012, and Republicans are on the decline, Clinton's image suffers in that state as well.
Collectively, the three states, all of whom chose Obama in 2012, have 60 electoral votes, and by adding them to the Romney states, the GOP ticket would have 266 electoral votes, just four fewer than the 270 needed to win.
If the numbers depended only on citizen-only figures, the GOP nominee would get the votes needed without adding a Democratic leaning state, but under the current system, Obama carried 20 of the remaining 23 states in the last election, leaving just Colorado, Iowa, and New Hampshire to grab, but Democrats have been winning in those states, which leaned Republican for years.
But by counting illegal immigrants, even if the GOP wins 27 states, with the current Electoral College math, that would give Republicans 266 electoral votes, not the 270 needed.
There are no quick fixes for the situation, however, Rozell and Goldman write, as there is little chance states will ratify an amendment to allow a popular vote to pick the president.
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