With the Electoral College, how much do Californians’ votes count?

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One KCRW listener asked, “Does it really matter if we vote? I mean isn't the electoral vote [Electoral College vote] still what's more important in each state? How can we get rid of this nationwide and why is it so?"

Californian Farhad Manjoo wrote about this topic for his New York Times column. “We in California, we’re the largest state, we are 40 million people. But you kind of look at the way that the presidential race goes or the Supreme Court nomination, and we really don’t have much of a say. One of the reasons we don’t have much of a say is because of the Electoral College. It doesn't really matter how much a winning candidate wins by — because the Electoral College is winner take all.” 

He says 2016 presidential candidate Hillary Clinton won California by 4 million votes. “She also won the national popular vote, so a lot of those votes came from California, but they were essentially ignored. Because we have an electoral system that says it’s much more important to get votes currently in the midwest.”

He says it’s always struck him as bizarre and unfair that Californians’ votes count than others’ — because of the Electoral College. “It just doesn't matter if you get over and above your opponent in the state. And so there’s just millions of votes … essentially wasted. They don’t really help the winning candidate.” 

How should the system work instead? Manjoo says the simplest way for picking a president: Whoever gets the most votes wins. 

“I don’t know if that’s going to happen, and changing any of these rules requires either Constitutional change or just big agreements between states. It’s hard to see how it will change,” he says.