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Minimum Popular Vote

The US electoral college has its flaws, but forget about that. I'm curious what the minimum popular vote could possibly be in order for a candidate to win the US general election.

Electoral Votes

To win, a candidate must gather at least 270 electoral votes. The best strategy, mathematically speaking, would be to win more states each with fewer members of the House Of Representatives. This is because each state has a base of 2 members no matter what, and a total number of members that scales with the state population. So, smaller states have a higher proportion of representative per capita. Below is an image of the most mathematically efficient way to win exactly 270 votes in 2024.

Image created using

Summary: A candidate can win with the smallest 39 states plus DC.

To win the electoral vote in the state, the candidate must win the popular vote in that state (meaning at least half of the votes.) So, let's tally up the population for the bottom 39 states and halve it. I did not want to do this state-by-state, so I downloaded some JSON data from and wrote a script to calculate the population totals for the US and the bottom 39 states plus DC.

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Total US population    = 336,587,275 (100%)
Pop. of small states   = 145,512,850 (43.23%)
Required popular vote  = 72,756,425 (21.62%)

The output of the program.

This shows that the total US population is about 336 million in 2024, and the bottom 39 states plus DC make up about 43% of that amount. Assuming that the candidate achieves the mimimum required popular vote for those exact states, and 0% of the popular vote for the top 11 states, he or she only needs to win about 72 million votes.


Although a virtually impossible scenario for a multitide of reasons, if played exactly right, a candidate can become president only winning 21.62% of the popular vote in the United States. Of course, that will never happen, right?