Illegal Immigrants and the 2016 Election
As everyone with a brain is well aware, Presidents are elected by the Electoral College. That, in turn, is determined as a total of 538 votes- one for each congressional district plus two (for the number of Senators) from each state, and Washington DC gets three electoral votes by Constitutional amendment. The number of House members is determined by population with each state guaranteed at least one House member regardless of population. As a result, the most populated states receive the most House districts and members. Population is determined by the census taken every ten years after which boundaries within states are adjusted to make sure each district has roughly equal the number of people to satisfy the doctrine of “one man-one vote.” Under this scheme, states that gain in population increase their House members at the expense of states with declining population, or those that do not keep up with other states. For example, after the 2010 Census, Texas gained 4 seats while states like Ohio and Michigan lost votes.
Population gains are the function of three variables- birth rates, internal migration and external migration. With the US birth rate stagnating or in decline relative to other eras, these migratory variables play a more important role. Internal migration is the movement of citizens from one state to another. Under this rubric, it is clear to see that the states that gained seats from the last census- Florida, Texas, Georgia- did so because people from primarily the Upper Midwest were moving to these states. California has lost jobs and people to Texas, yet did not lose any seats in the House because external migration and birth rates negated the movement of citizens out of the state. The Census Bureau is very adept at tracking population from one state to another and from that data we know that traditionally red states like Texas, Georgia and Arizona are popular destinations while states like New York, Ohio and Michigan are not.
Part of that dynamic is personal choice; many people retire to these states. Another dynamic is the movement of jobs because red states generally have a more favorable business atmosphere. We see that with the California-to-Texas movement in particular.
However, as stated earlier, California lost no seats in the House after the 2010 Census since it counts number of people, not US citizens. This is strange since the primary Constitutional purpose of the census is to determine representation in the House. Every other piece of information is superfluous. Hence, the Census picks up in their counts illegal immigrants and adds that to the total population of the state.
The effects this could have on the Electoral College could be important in a close election. If we were to subtract out the estimated number of illegal immigrants from a state’s population and use just legal citizens, California would lose 5 electoral votes. Although it would still be the most populous state, its relative impact would be slightly lessened in favor of the GOP. But where would those electoral votes go? Louisiana (a red state) would gain 1 vote, Michigan (swing/blue) would gain a vote, Missouri (red state) would gain 1, Montana (red) would gain one, and North Carolina would gain one (red/swing state). Obviously, California’s loss would be a net gain for Republicans if the illegal population were removed from the counts.
Texas- a red state and one with a large illegal population- would stand to lose three electoral votes to the advantage of Pennsylvania (blue/swing), Ohio (swing) and Virginia (red/swing). Finally, Florida- a swing state with a large illegal population- would lose one vote in favor of Oregon (blue state) gaining one vote. Doing the math based on a traditional red/blue basis, red states would gain electoral votes. Unfortunately, unless the election were extremely close, it is not enough to tip the scales and negate the so-called Democratic advantage, or “Blue Wall,” in the Electoral College.
Fortunately, there have been only four close Presidential elections in our history and only one since the electoral vote count was set at 538: a 3 vote difference in 1796, a tie in 1800, one vote difference in 1876 and a five vote difference in 2000.
Since 1960, Republicans have lost by an average of 187.9 electoral votes. Conversely, they have won by an average of 274.3 electoral votes. Hence, the shifting of 9 electoral votes by removing the illegal population would likely have little effect on the outcome of the presidential election. Where it would create a difference is at the House and state legislative levels. That is the subject of another article coming soon.
There are three ways to make sure the illegal population does not have an effect on the Presidential outcome. The first is to make sure they do not vote and the best method of achieving that is to have stringently enforced voter ID laws. Should they slip through and actually cast a ballot, it could have serious effects on the outcomes at the state level. The second method is to win and win big- leave nothing to chance. For that to happen, you need the right candidate and right set of circumstances.
The final method is to apportion a state’s electoral votes in the same manner as Nebraska and Maine- by legislative district with two votes (the Senator’s) going towards the overall state winner. In this scenario, using just the 2012 figures, the election would have been considerably closer. Instead of a 332-206 Obama victory over Romney, it would have been have 279-259. But how electors are chosen is up to the individual states and efforts to award electoral votes based on the Maine/Nebraska model have failed.
In conclusion, the presence or counting of the illegal population has very little effect on the final Electoral College vote count unless the race is exceptionally close. There is not a strong history of close races. The key is to make sure, through adequate voter ID laws, that illegals do not actually cast a ballot in substantial numbers. The key states will remain the key states.