The 4.89% American Veto

4.89% of Americans elected enough US Senators to exercise a legislative veto.

Source? Mathematics (aided by Excel). I populated a spreadsheet with Ballotpedia’s votes received by the winning candidate in each of the most recent 100 Senatorial elections. The Senate Filibuster dictates that 41 Senators hold a legislative veto (with some very narrow exceptions). Sum the votes received by the 41 Senators who received the fewest number of votes and you get 16,256,100. Divide that by the US Commerce Departments’ most recent US Population of 332,403,650 and you get 4.89%.

By way of ridiculous comparison, ~6.5% of Chinese are members of the Chinese Communist Party. While clearly fallacious, it is at least somewhat arguable that, with respect to Legislative Veto, the Chinese system of government is more “democratic” than the American: A smaller portion of Americans has the power to reject their fellow citizens than do the Chinese. (Of course, I am absurdly ignoring the fact that the Chinese system is also a dictatorship [which can un-veto the legislative veto].)

Astute readers will note that those 41 US Senators represent a remarkable diversity of party affiliation (some of the deepest blues and reds). A commenter might remark “This is silly, there is no way those 41 Senators would agree on anything.”

Well, to begin with, these 41 Senators strongly agree on the most critical consideration of all: To maintain a system of government that gives them each vastly disproportionate and highly non-representative power — a system that allows them to exercise a veto despite having only received votes from 4.89% of Americans. Indeed they exercise their 4.89% Veto to… well.. veto a change to the system that would do away with their veto — a change that would require them to receive more than 4.89% of American’s votes to gain veto power.

Nevertheless, if you choose to disregard the 4.89% Veto as impractical due to partisan disparity, then please note that 9.97% of Americans elected enough Republican Senators and/or that 12.60% of Americans elected enough Democratic (caucus) Senators to exercise a legislative veto.

To wit: Our federal system does not remotely deliver “one person, one vote.” Rather we Americans have wildly different federal votes (think one person, nine votes… next person, one vote). A very few of us elect enough representatives to veto the rest of us. Furthermore, ours does not comport with “no taxation without representation” as few Americans have representation even remotely on par with their federal taxation. Indeed most Americans today have only marginally greater federal representation relative to taxes paid than did our pre-Revolutionary forefathers (both being negligible).

A lazy rejoinder is that this is how our system has always been — how it was designed in the beginning. But that is simply not true. We Americans today are subject to a vastly less representative government than when our Constitution was ratified… and even up until about the 1940s… which will be the subject of future essays…



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Kevin Shields

Kevin Shields


Marginally informed, fiercely independent, highly engaged, and extremely concerned citizen in search of healing for the Great Experiment.