The Electoral College has a ton of problems. Illegal immigration isn’t one of them.

Illegal Immigrants Could Elect Hillary,” Paul Goldman and Mark Rozell warned in Politico Magazine over the weekend. The headline is so conspiratorial one would think Ann Coulter wrote it herself. Will the 2016 election be legitimate? Will non-citizens vote en masse in an attempt to subvert our democracy?

Well, no. Not quite. Goldman and Rozell aren’t worried about voter fraud. They’re just concerned that the Constitution’s mandate that electoral votes be apportioned to states by their Census populations, which include non-citizens, gives blue states more clout than they deserve and could swing the 2016 election to the Democratic nominee. Here’s how their math works:

Electoral College 2012, via Wikimedia Commons

Electoral College 2012, via Wikimedia Commons

Using citizen-only population statistics, American University scholar Leonard Steinhorn projects California would lose five House seats and therefore five electoral votes. New York and Washington would lose one seat, and thus one electoral vote apiece. These three states, which have voted overwhelming for Democrats over the latest six presidential elections, would lose seven electoral votes altogether. The GOP’s path to victory, by contrast, depends on states that would lose a mere three electoral votes in total. Republican stronghold Texas would lose two House seats and therefore two electoral votes. Florida, which Republicans must win to reclaim the presidency, loses one seat and thus one electoral vote.

But that leaves the electoral math only half done. The 10 House seats taken away from these states would then need to be reallocated to states with relatively small numbers of noncitizens. The following ten states, the bulk of which lean Republican, would likely gain one House seat and thus one additional electoral vote: Iowa, Indiana, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma and Pennsylvania.

Under the current electoral map, the eventual Republican nominee could win all of Mitt Romney’s states plus Ohio, Florida and Virginia and still come up a few electoral votes short of securing the presidency. Re-apportion the map without non-citizens and, by their count, this is no longer the case.

Setting aside for the moment that it’s hard to imagine California losing five House seats while Texas only loses two in this scenario when the states had roughly equal numbers of undocumented immigrants in 2010, this is still one of the worst arguments I’ve ever heard for getting rid of the Electoral College. I agree, the system is dumb, but undocumented immigrants aren’t the reason why.

For starters, the Electoral College isn’t directly apportioned by Census population. It’s apportioned by seats in Congress. And while 436 of those are determined by Census population, 102 aren’t: Each state (plus DC) gets two extra electoral votes regardless of their size because of the Senate. This means that states with tiny populations get more representation in the Electoral College than population alone would warrant. And those states, unlike the ones Goldman and Rozell highlight, are predominantly red.

Currently, there are seven states (again, counting DC) with three electoral votes, the lowest possible amount. Five of them voted for Mitt Romney by double digits in 2012 and are reliably red: Alaska Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming. Just two, states, Delaware and DC, are reliably blue. Of states with six electoral votes or fewer, fifteen are reliably red and six are reliably blue (nine if you count the swing states of New Hampshire, Nevada and Iowa). Take Senate seats out of the 2012 electoral math entirely (drop two electoral votes from each state) and Mitt Romney loses 46 of his 206 electoral votes, or 22.3% of his total. President Obama loses 52 of his 332, or just 15.7% of his total.

All this is to say that the Electoral College is already skewed to give representation to small states that they wouldn’t have under a system that simply divided electoral votes up based on population, and those small states skew Republican by more than enough to offset what Goldman and Rozell estimate to be a four electoral vote advantage this year’s Democratic nominee will enjoy over their Republican opponent as a result of illegal immigration.

But it gets worse. Left unstated, but nonetheless implied, in Goldman and Rozell’s article is the argument conservatives are set to make in Evenwel v Abbott, the Supreme Court case set to be heard this year concerning whether one person does, in fact, equal one vote. In that case, Texas plaintiffs are contending that undocumented immigrants are throwing off the apportionment process of state legislative districts, as they are counted for apportionment but ineligible to vote, thereby leaving some districts with significantly more eligible voters than others. As with Goldman and Rozell’s complaint, the plaintiffs in Evenwel are likely to run up against at least two hurdles. First, the data necessary to determine how many eligible voters live in a given area doesn’t currently exist; second, the ineligible voters who live in a given district are still affected by its laws (and many, such as children and prisoners, are citizens). These factors together make the issue (to the extent that it’s an issue) very difficult to solve in a fair manner.

At the end of the day, Goldman and Rozell come to a sound conclusion: the Electoral College is an undemocratic mechanism that has far outlived its purpose and should be thrown out in favor of the national popular vote. But they take a roundabout way to get there simply to make a point about immigration, when the easiest way to solve that issue would be to pass comprehensive immigration reform and give all of these undocumented immigrants a chance to become fully-fledged citizens. Then we wouldn’t have to worry about whether we count them in the Census or if they vote.

Jon Green graduated from Kenyon College with a B.A. in Political Science and high honors in Political Cognition. He worked as a field organizer for Congressman Tom Perriello in 2010 and a Regional Field Director for President Obama's re-election campaign in 2012. Jon writes on a number of topics, but pays especially close attention to elections, religion and political cognition. Follow him on Twitter at @_Jon_Green, and on Google+. .

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