Swing states get a candidate’s time and money during presidential campaigns. Safe states don’t. Even delegate-heavy states that are certain to go Democratic or Republican are less important to the campaign than states with fewer delegates that could flip either way. Picking up three, six or more toss-up delegates are important in the race to 270.
And so, some heavily populated states and their many voters feel left out of the process in electing a president. This is one reason why, they argue, the Electoral College should be abolished and replaced with a popular vote.
Of course, the popular vote would have the opposite effect. Candidates would concentrate nearly all of their time in the heavily populated states of California, Texas, New York and Florida, with little concern for the rest of the country. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, half of our country’s population is contained within just nine states. The popular vote could never work in a just manner for all 50 states, for that reason alone.
It’s evident that with either system, somebody feels left out. The problem, though, isn’t the system. It’s the voting pattern of the electorate. The question that needs to get answered is, “Why is any state consistently “safe” for one party or another?”
Candidates use polling and voting history to determine the safeness factor of a particular state. Neither strategy is foolproof, as the 2016 election showed. It helps, though, to explain why a candidate may visit one state only once and travel to another a dozen times.
The voting patterns of several of our largest states—California, Texas and New York—have been very predictable. In the last six presidential elections, Californians (55 delegates) and New Yorkers (29 delegates) voted Democratic. Texans (38 delegates) voted Republican in the last six elections. These states are so reliable that less attention is given to them.
Florida is different. It has a sizeable amount of delegates at 29, but it’s a swing state. In the last six elections, it voted Democratic three times and Republican three times. As candidates, both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton made numerous trips to the state. Floridians’ voices and concerns were heard, because the state could have easily tipped either way.
Perhaps the people of California and New York are perfectly happy with their consistent liberal vote and Texans with their repeated conservative choices. That is their right.
And it is the right of presidential candidates to strategically use their time and resources in a way that will achieve 270 electoral votes. It’s not a flaw in the electoral system to do that. It’s a lack of diversity of thought in safe states that leaves its voters largely ignored.
Iowans tends to lean Democratic in presidential elections, but still voted twice for the Republican candidate in the last six contests.
It takes a sizeable amount of the electorate to vote in such a way that the vote swings back and forth between a Democratic or Republican winner. That’s a lot of independent thinking, and it’s a good thing.
In the perfect world, all 50 states would be swing states—every single one a wild card because each would be filled with voters who have diversity of thought and who aren’t pigeonholed as a sure Democratic or Republican win.
No one party has all the answers, all the time.
In Iowa, and other swing states, voters get that.