Smaller States See Power Grow, But All States Have More Clout Than Puerto Rico

An extensive New York Times analysis yesterday found that the political power of States with small populations was growing relative to States with large populations.

States with small populations have always had a relatively greater share in Federal decision-making but the article pointed out that the relative influence has been expanding due to population shifts.

The article also provided information documenting how the clout of less-populated States results in greater Federal spending in those States.

The outsized influence of States with fewer people is primarily derived from the United States Senate, which is made up of two senators from each State.   Least-populated Wyoming, with an estimated 576,412 people in July 2012, has the same representation as most-populated California, with an estimated 38,041,430 residents — 66 times as many — but the two States have the same representation in the Senate.  Sixty-two senators from the least populous States represent a quarter of the population of all States, while six from the most populous States represent another quarter.

The disproportionate heft of small States in the U.S. Government is also due to the system of electing the president and the vice-president of the United States.  Each State has a number of votes in the election equal to the number of its congressional delegation, two senators plus members of the U.S. House based on population, with each State having at least one House representative no matter the size of its population.  California has 55 votes; Wyoming three.  California has 18.33 times more votes in presidential elections than Wyoming — but not 66 times as many.

Another consequence of the U.S. Federal system being biased towards States with small populations is that, currently at least, it outstates conservative policy positions in decision-making.  Then proportion of conservatives to liberals is larger in less-populated States than in more-populated States at present, according to the Times report.

Puerto Rico, with 3,667,084 people in July 2012, has a bigger population than 21 States and 6.36 times as many people as Wyoming.  But since Puerto Rico is a territory, it has less power in the Federal government — its national government — than any State or the seat of the U.S. Government, the District of Columbia.

Puerto Rico has no representation in the Senate or in the election of the president and vice-president.  It has a lone representative in the House, who can only vote in committees.  The Federal district has three votes in the election of the president and vice-president gained through an amendment to the Constitution of the United States.  It also has a representative in the House who can only vote in committees. But, with 617,996 people, it has the same power in the House as Puerto Rico, with 3,667,084 people.

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