Analysis: Campaigning in big states not the same as rigging

Photo Courtesy: AP Images
Photo Courtesy: AP Images

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) – When Phil Bryant ran for governor in 2011 and 2015, there were parts of Mississippi where he didn’t spend much time or money, and there were reasons for that.

Issaquena, Sharkey and Jefferson counties have small populations. They are also politically predictable, with a long history of voting for Democrats.

Bryant is a Republican, so he spent money and effort where it made more sense for him to court voters. He went to larger counties that predictably vote Republican, including places like fast-growing DeSoto County, just south of Memphis, Tennessee; the Jackson suburbs of Madison and Rankin counties; and coastal Jackson County, a longtime GOP stronghold.

It’s such a basic thing that it’s hardly worth fussing about: Politicians court voters in large population centers, they focus time and money on areas that are competitive and they don’t exert themselves in places that they predictably are not going to win.

So, it was jarring last week to hear Bryant complain about presidential candidates – really just the Democrat – focusing on large-population states and largely ignoring smaller states like Mississippi.

Bryant has been campaigning for Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, who has been speculating that the Nov. 8 election could be “rigged,” without offering evidence. On Oct. 24, Bryant was a guest on the Paul Gallo radio show on Supertalk Mississippi, and he agreed when Gallo said: “The election is rigged.”

“The election is rigged,” Bryant said. “I mean, any Republican has to have an overwhelming majority of the vote. And of course as it has been designed, as we look at the states where the more liberal voting populations may be in the cities, in New York and California and some of the other areas – all you have to do is win those particularly larger states and you can forget about flyover country.”

Winning the presidency requires at least 270 electoral votes, a majority of the 538. Each state has as many electoral votes as it has members of the U.S. House and Senate, and the District of Columbia has three.

With four House members based on population and two senators like every state, Mississippi has six electoral votes. New York has 29. California has 55.

A nonpartisan group called FairVote says that “on average a state is awarded one electoral vote for every 565,166 people.” It points out that states with smaller populations have more influence in the Electoral College

Wyoming, for example, has three electoral votes and 532,668 residents, based on 2008 population estimates. That means “each of Wyoming’s three electoral votes corresponds to 177,556 people,” FairVote says. “These people have 3.18 times as much clout in the Electoral College as an average American, or 318 percent.”

The group says Mississippi, with a 2.9 million population in 2008, had one electoral vote for every 489,770 people. That means Mississippi residents had 1.15 times as much clout in the Electoral College than the average American, or 115 percent.

California had 36.8 million residents in 2008, and each had 0.85 times as much clout in the Electoral College as the average American, or 85 percent. New York’s 19.5 million residents each had 0.9 times as much clout in the Electoral College as the average American, or 90 percent.

Mississippi has voted Republican in every presidential race since 1980 and is generally considered a lock for the GOP this year. Trump has campaigned in Mississippi three times, while Democrat Hillary Clinton has made little effort in the state. The presidential candidates are doing what Bryant did in the governor’s race – putting money and effort into places that are competitive and that carry a big reward.

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