Apart from Nebraska and Maine, all other 48 states plus the District of Columbia are winner take all states. In the 48 winner-take-all states, all their electoral votes go to the candidate who wins the popular vote in the state.
Effect of Winner Take All States in U.S. Elections
Customarily, the presidential candidate who wins the popular vote in a winner-takes-all state gets all the electoral votes. A candidate needs to gather a majority of the electoral votes to win the presidential election. There’s a total of 538 electoral votes. Therefore, a candidate needs to garner 270 votes to become president. This is to say that the votes of the Electoral College decide who becomes president.
The only two states that don’t follow the winner take it all system, Nebraska and Maine, have five and four electoral votes each. Nebraska - 5 votes. Maine - 4 votes. In Maine and Nebraska, the electoral votes are proportionally distributed based on a candidate’s performance in each congressional district and the state-wide performance.
Drawbacks of the Winner-take-all System.
1. Under-representation of the Minority
In voting districts with a substantial population of minorities, they are severely under-represented in a winner-take-all system. Even if their preferred candidate wins the popular vote nationally but loses in their state, their votes will not count.
Minorities voting in a state dominated by one political viewpoint in a winner take all state may never have their say unless they subscribe to the prevalent ideology. Being minorities, the popular political view may not accommodate their interests.
2. Even the Majority may Lose in a Winner-Take-All System
In a winner-take-all system, even the majority may not have their way sometimes. A candidate can win the popular vote nationally but lose the electoral vote and fail to clinch the presidency besides getting the most votes. This happened in the 2016 and 2000 elections.
3. It Fosters Under Voting
People living in winner take all states may not be motivated to vote, more so if they don’t share the popular opinion in their state. Since it’s already pre-determined that the electoral votes will go to the candidate who gets the popular vote in the state, those who support a different candidate may be dispirited to vote.