Thought experiment: how illegal immigrants could elect Hillary

Here’s some Sunday morning math from Politico Magazine to either amuse or enrage you. (Or possibly both?) The conclusion of this analysis is that Hillary Clinton – or whoever the Democrats wind up deciding on – could be elected by illegal immigrants. At first glance this sounds like a voter fraud story, but that would require one heck of a lot of illegally cast ballots. No… it’s something different and it once again brings us back to the arcane math behind the electoral college. You see, while the electors representing the two senators from each state are unaffected by population shifts, not so for the 435 electors who represent the various congressional districts across the nation. Almost all of the states are winner take all in terms of their electors (with Maine and Nebraska being the exceptions) and the number of electors – and districts – is determined by their populations. Illegals can’t vote, but they do count towards the state’s total population in the census.

With that in mind, you’re probably starting to see the problem. States with the most illegals are getting a bump in the number of electors and that winds up favoring the Democrats.

This math gives strongly Democratic states an unfair edge in the Electoral College. Using citizen-only population statistics, American University scholar Leonard Steinhorn projects California would lose five House seats and therefore five electoral votes. New York and Washington would lose one seat, and thus one electoral vote apiece. These three states, which have voted overwhelming for Democrats over the latest six presidential elections, would lose seven electoral votes altogether. The GOP’s path to victory, by contrast, depends on states that would lose a mere three electoral votes in total. Republican stronghold Texas would lose two House seats and therefore two electoral votes. Florida, which Republicans must win to reclaim the presidency, loses one seat and thus one electoral vote.

That doesn’t sound like much of an edge, though. It’s only a shift of four votes to the Dems. But as the Politico analysis goes on to note, those ten districts taken away from the illegal heavy states have to go to the next highest population states. And that group is pretty red in color.

The 10 House seats taken away from these states would then need to be reallocated to states with relatively small numbers of noncitizens. The following ten states, the bulk of which lean Republican, would likely gain one House seat and thus one additional electoral vote: Iowa, Indiana, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma and Pennsylvania.

You’re now talking about a margin of error which is greater than the difference which decided several presidential elections. And if Hillary continues to do as badly as she currently is in Florida and Ohio (assuming again that she’s the nominee) you could be looking at a nail biter next November.

How does this get fixed? Odds are that it doesn’t. We’re looking at two completely separate functions of government which, at first blush, don’t seem to have much to do with each other. You’d need to do one of two things. Either you’d have to adjust the census to not count illegals or you would have to amend the constitution to indicate that the electors would only be apportioned based on the number of legal residents. The latter would take years on end if it could be managed at all. The former would require an act of Congress to alter the rules of the census. That’s theoretically more doable, but you would have to get a bill past both the Democrats in Congress and the President’s veto pen which would put them at an electoral disadvantage compared to what they have today. And, of course, they would immediately argue that not counting the illegals would be slashing funding to the poor, think of the children and every other imaginable excuse. Good luck with that.

As I said at the outset, this is mostly just a thought experiment. It’s a very real problem but it’s probably too wonky for anyone to tackle, and yet it’s another reason to cast a jaundiced eye on the electoral college.