- Washington Secretary of State
- Republican Rob McKenna leads Democrat Jay Inslee in 31 of 38 Washington counties
Sick of rural Washington Republicans complaining about the way Seattle voters dominate our elections, and tired of a presidential election season that focused almost entirely on the idiosyncrasies of a handful of swing states, I decided to conduct a thought experiment. What if we elected our governor the way we elect our president: With a gubernatorial electoral college?
With the aid of news intern Al Jacobs I gathered into a spreadsheet county-by-county election results for every gubernatorial race going back to 1980, and then apportioned electors to each county roughly along the lines that we apportion presidential electors. Each county got a minimum of three electors, with the remainder assigned proportionate to population.
My gubernatorial electoral college has 417 delegates*; a minimum of 209 are needed to win the governor's mansion. And looking at the map above, it shouldn't come as much of a surprise to learn that under this electoral college system, Republican Rob McKenna would have won the 2012 election. Despite Democrat Jay Inslee's two to three point lead in the popular vote, McKenna would take the electoral college by a 224 to 193 margin. (County by county electoral college apportionment after the jump.)
Republicans would have also won the governor's mansion in 2004, with Dino Rossi achieving a comfortable 268 to 149 electoral college advantage in a year where the popular vote split nearly fifty-fifty. And in 2008, the only thing keeping Rossi from victory would have been Gregoire's 7,199 vote lead in Pierce County, and the 42 electoral delegates it carried with it. Gregoire took over 53 percent of the popular vote that year.
In fact, Pierce proves to be the electoral tipping point in both 2008 and 2012, and would have gone with the electoral winner in each of the past nine elections. Pierce County is Washington State's Ohio.
Fortunately, we don't elect our governors this way, because it would be stupid. Almost as stupid as counting Black people as three-fifths of a person for the purpose of apportionment. But for some reason this particular quirk of the founders has remained unchallenged, despite the obvious stupidity and unfairness of applying an electoral college in any other context. Go figure.
Gubernatorial Electors by County:
King 98 Pierce 42 Snohomish 37 Spokane 25 Clark 23 Thurston 15 Kitsap 14 Yakima 14 Whatcom 12 Benton 11 Skagit 8 Cowlitz 7 Franklin 6 Grant 6 Island 6 Lewis 6 Pacific 6 Chelan 5 Clallam 5 Grays Harbor 5 Mason 5 Walla Walla 5 Douglas 4 Kittitas 4 Okanogan 4 Stevens 4 Whitman 4 Adams 3 Asotin 3 Columbia 3 Ferry 3 Garfield 3 Jefferson 3 Klickitat 3 Lincoln 3 Pend Oreille 3 San Juan 3 Skamania 3 Wahkiakum 3
* My 417 delegate gubernatorial electoral college is comprised of two delegates per county (78 electors total) corresponding to US Senators, plus 339 electors apportioned by population, with a minimum of one per county. That 339 number is derived from the 435 presidential electors corresponding to the members of the US House, divided by 50 (states) and multiplied by 39 (counties), rounded down. The apportionment formula is not exact, and does not account for shifting population over the past three decades, but the resulting electoral college margins are large enough that small shifts in apportionment would not have changed the final outcome.