Fuzzy Math: Wrong Way Reforms for Allocating Electoral Votes Problems with the Whole Number Proportional and Congressional District Systems

by Claire Daviss, Rob Richie // Published January 28, 2015

Many state legislatures are searching for ways to change their statewide winner-take-all rules for allocating Electoral College votes during presidential elections. In its third edition, Fuzzy Math: Wrong Way Reforms for Allocating Electoral Votes analyzes two of the three major options available to state leaders: the congressional district system and the whole number proportional system for allocating electoral votes.

The first option is the congressional district system, in which a state gives a candidate one electoral vote for every congressional district a candidate wins and two electoral vote for winning the statewide popular vote.

The second option is the whole number proportional system, in which a state gives electoral votes to candidates according to the proportion of the statewide popular vote each candidate wins. We evaluate these two options according to central criteria for strong democratic electoral systems: majority rule, competitiveness of elections, and equality of votes.


Key findings:

  • The congressional district system would make the presidential election less meaningfully competitive. Recent elections demonstrate that a smaller percentage of the population lives in current swing congressional districts than in current swing states.
  • The congressional district system would increase the likelihood of a candidate winning the election without winning a majority of votes nationwide. If it had been used in 2012, Mitt Romney would have won the presidential election over Barack Obama, despite winning 5 million fewer votes nationwide.
  • The whole number proportional system somewhat expands the number of states with ate least one elector in play, but it fails to make all states, or even a majority of states, relevant. States would still be categorized as battlegrounds or spectators.
  • The whole number proportional system increases the likelihood of contingent elections, in which the president is chosen not by U.S. voters, but by state delegations of the U.S. House of Representatives.
  • Both systems appear partisan when implemented on a state-by-state basis.
  • Both systems perpetuate voter inequality between states and congressional districts.


We conclude that neither system sufficiently promotes majority rule, creates competitive elections nationwide, or ensures equality of votes. The third option available to state leaders, the National Popular Vote plan, remains the most fair and democratic.


This report was produced by Claire Daviss, FairVote Democracy Fellow, and Rob Richie, Executive Director. Previous editions were written with the help of Monideepa Talukdar, Ryan O’Donnell, and Neal Suidan.