Small States Dominate U.S. Senate

“The power of the smaller states is large and growing. Political scientists call it a striking exception to the democratic principle of ‘one person, one vote.’ Indeed, they say, the Senate may be the least democratic legislative chamber in any developed nation.”

New York Times reporter Adam Liptak reports on the well-known but confounding political power of small states in the U.S. Senate and the Electoral College under the headline, Smaller States Find Outsize Clout Growing in Senate.”

English: Electoral college map for the 2012, 2...

Electoral college map for the 2012, 2016 and 2020 United States presidential elections, based on apportionment data from the US Census Bureau. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Under the U.S. Constitution, Wyoming, the state with the smallest population in America, has two U.S. senators. So does California, the state with the largest population. The stunning result in the U.S. Senate is shown in this striking NY Times graphic.

One obvious result is that small states receive much more Federal money, per capita, than large states. A look at the map also shows that most of the smaller states are conservative, Republican-voting, Red states. The small states have many more votes in the Senate than the large states.

Small states also have an advantage in the Electoral College, though not as great as their advantage in the Senate. For this reason, the Electoral College has chosen a president who did not receive a majority of the popular vote. It will undoubtedly happen again, and it could call into question the very legitimacy of a U.S. president.

“In 2000, had electoral votes been allocated by population, without the two-vote bonuses, Al Gore would have prevailed over George W. Bush. Alexander Keyssar, a historian of democracy at Harvard, said he would not be surprised if another Republican candidate won the presidency while losing the popular vote in coming decades, given the structure of the Electoral College.”

Is it any wonder that democracy in America appears to be broken?

— John Hayden

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