Illegal immigrants—along with other noncitizens without the right to vote—may pick the 2016 presidential winner. Thanks to the unique math undergirding the Electoral College, the mere presence of 11-12 million illegal immigrants and other noncitizens here legally may enable them to swing the election from Republicans to Democrats.
The right to vote is intended to be a singular privilege of citizenship. But the 1787 Constitutional Convention rejected allowing the people to directly elect their President. The delegates chose instead our Electoral College system, under which 538 electoral votes distributed amongst the states determine the presidential victor. The Electoral College awards one elector for each U.S. Senator, thus 100 of the total, and D.C. gets three electors pursuant to the 23rd Amendment. Those electoral numbers are unaffected by the size of the noncitizen population. The same cannot be said for the remaining 435, more than 80 percent of the total, which represent the members elected to the House.
The distribution of these 435 seats is not static: they are reapportioned every ten years to reflect the population changes found in the census. That reallocation math is based on the relative “whole number of persons in each state,” as the formulation in the 14th Amendment has it. When this language was inserted into the U.S. Constitution, the concept of an “illegal immigrant,” as the term is defined today, had no meaning. Thus the census counts illegal immigrants and other noncitizens equally with citizens. Since the census is used to determine the number of House seats apportioned to each state, those states with large populations of illegal immigrants and other noncitizens gain extra seats in the House at the expense of states with fewer such “whole number of persons.”