Causes and Consequences of America's Distance from "One Person, One Vote"

Sarah Cowan, University of California, Berkeley

The United States of America’s founding fathers made particular decisions regarding the electoral process and demography; these decisions rendered the idea of “one person, one vote” a myth both as a demographic statement and as a notion of equality. This paper explores the history of voter exclusion laws, the trends over the past 25 years and the current landscape, outlining America’s distance from “one person, one vote.” It finds great inequality among the power of each vote: a vote for the Presidential election in Wyoming has 3.4 times the leverage on the outcome of the election than a vote in Florida. Due to this power inequality, a Presidential candidate needs surprisingly few votes to win: had every eligible voter voted in the 2004 election, the White House could have been taken with just 22 percent of the electorate.

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Presented in Poster Session 4