The insanity of the electoral college is well known, but I've never seen anyone go through and calculate the absolute most undemocratic result possible given the current US electoral setup. What I did was take each state's population compared with its electoral votes, find the population per elector, and rank them by greatest over-representation. Then, I added up electoral votes until I got past 270—as it turns out, 38 states + DC makes a pretty close 274. (I imagine it would be possible to shave a few tenths off my percentage by playing with the totals, but this has to be pretty close.) I assumed the winner got 50% + 1 votes in each of the winning states and no votes in the remaining states, giving the totals on the right. [UPDATE: By the way, this is assuming 100% turnout!]
Now, this is clearly stupendously unlikely, but it's worth asking why it's worth keeping a system where this kind of a result is even possible. Also, it's often repeated that it's possible to win only concentrating on the largest states, but below one can see that the most undemocratic states are usually very small.
PS: It's quite possible I made some mistake in there, I'd welcome someone double-checking my math. OpenOffice was giving me fits when I was figuring this out. Data from Wikipedia.
UPDATE: Yglesias adds on:
But even this is an overestimate since differential turnout is possible. You could win California with seven votes if only 13 people bothered to show up on election day.
I also recognize that Maine and Nebraska do not have that system, but so long as the congressional vote was distributed equally within each state the result would stand. It's a reasonable assumption given our current ridiculous premises.
UPDATE II: Danny clarifies in comments that "two candidate" is to make clear that I'm only assuming two candidates. (If you had ~308 million candidates, for example, one could win with less than 100 votes even with 100% turnout.)
UPDATE III: DOH! I knew I had a screwup in there. I mistakenly used the total US population for calculating the population percentage, forgetting that while all our various colonies (Guam, Puerto Rico, etc.) are included in the total population, they don't get counted in presidential elections (boy, speaking of unfairness...but that's another post). Of course, this only strengthens my original point.
Here are the revised totals only counting the presidential voting electorate.
|State||Population||Electors||Population per elector||Percentage of total|
|Washington, D.C.||601723||3||200574||0.19%||Full percent||43.99%|
|South Dakota||814180||3||271393||0.26%||Winning percentage||21.99%|
|New Hampshire||1316470||4||329118||0.43%||Total population||308745538|