Puerto Rico and the Electoral College

White House

Puerto Rico has no say in presidential elections because the U.S. president is not elected by people. The president is elected by Electors, the people chosen in each state to vote on the state’s behalf.

The Electoral College meets after the presidential elections, and the Electors, the representatives of the states, cast their votes. The votes are based on the choices of the voters in the states. So Hillary Clinton got all 55 votes from California in 2016, even though 4,483,814 Californians voted for Donald Trump.

That’s how it works.

What if Puerto Rico were a blue state?

When you hear people claim that Puerto Rico would be a blue state, they don’t usually talk about how admitting Puerto Rico would lead to more Democratic presidents. They’re usually talking about having more Democrats in the legislature. Democrats think it would be good to have two more Democratic senators, and Republicans don’t want more Democrats in the House.

In fact, Puerto Rico’s chosen representatives include both Republicans and Democrats, and Puerto Rico would probably be a swing state like Florida.

But how would the 51st state affect presidential races?

The Electoral College with other states

FiveThirtyEight created an interesting interactive tool. To see how differences in states might affect the Electoral College, they came up with a list of potential but not real states. For example, Utah first applied for statehood as Deseret, an enormous area that would include parts of nine current states.

The tool examined 13 of these potential or former states. Using current population figures for the land involved, FiveThirtyEight calculated whether those states could have changed the outcome of the 2016 election. It considered what might of happened if the Republic of Texas had never become a state, or if Jefferson had become a state.

Here’s what they discovered: none of those differences would have changed the outcome of the election.

Puerto Rico’s statehood probably won’t change the outcome of presidential elections, either. But the people of Puerto Rico should, as U.S. citizens who have officially requested statehood, have the right to vote in presidential elections. That right comes with statehood.

Puerto Rico would have more electoral votes than 20 of the current 50 states. As a swing state, Puerto Rico would get more attention than most states. The priorities of Puerto Rico would be priorities for presidential candidates. This would make a difference.

Tell your representatives that you want statehood for Puerto Rico. It’s time.

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