Donald Trump won the 2016 election in the Electoral College, despite losing the popular total by about three million votes. Since the founding, there have been criticisms of the Electoral College, but the idea behind it was to keep candidates from spending all their time in the most populated areas. However, the calculation of electors was based on the number of senators and representatives, which is hardly one-person-one-vote.
The Independent notes five times a candidate won the popular vote but lost in the Electoral College: Andrew Jackson (1824), Samuel Tilden (1876), Grover Cleveland (1888), Al Gore (2000), and Hillary Clinton (2016). We went more than a century without the situation, but now, it has occurred twice out of the last five elections. In all cases, the victim has been a Democrat.
With all the grumbling, nothing has been done until now. The Daily Caller reports that Colorado is the 12th state to work to kill the Electoral College.
Colorado would bring the number of states who have joined the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact (NPVIC) to 12, plus the District of Columbia. The NPVIC represents a coalition of states that have agreed to pool their presidential electoral votes for the majority candidate, regardless of individual state outcomes.
States have the constitutional right to manage the awarding of electoral votes in national elections, with many states opting for winner-take-all. If states with 270 electoral votes — or the number needed to elect a president — agree to award their votes to the majority-vote holder, it could effectively convert the presidential election to popular vote. New Mexico is poised to join next.
As noted above, the Electoral College was intended to encourage candidates to become president of all the states, not just the most populated ones. But we have now developed a new problem. Since most states are either “Red” or “Blue,” it’s not the highly populated states, but the “undecided” states that get most of the attention from campaigns. Hillary lost the election because she slighted Pennsylvania, and did not even bother to visit Wisconsin.
The Hill gives more explanation.
Supporters of the compact say relying on the popular vote would expand the presidential map, incentivizing candidates to travel to states beyond the traditional battlegrounds of Florida and Ohio. . .
In 2016, nearly 19 of every 20 events the two major presidential candidates held were in just 12 battleground states. Most of those events were in just six states — Florida, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Virginia and Michigan. Combined, President Trump and Hillary Clinton held official campaign events in 26 of the 50 states, leaving 24 solidly red and blue states completely out of the action. . .
At least 11 other states have advanced popular-vote bills in recent months through at least one chamber of their respective legislatures. If all of those states complete those bills, it would add another 80 electoral votes to the compact, leaving them just nine votes shy of reaching the 270 marker.
There are other peculiarities about the Electoral College. One is that electors are human, and as such, they don’t vote automatically. An elector can “vote his/her conscience,” so we have the phenomenon of the “faithless elector,” who votes against the will of the people of the state. And here are a few other tidbits.
There has been one faithless elector in each of the following elections: 1948, 1956, 1960, 1968, 1972, 1976, and 1988. A blank ballot was cast in 2000. In 2016, seven electors broke with their state on the presidential ballot and six did so on the vice presidential ballot. . .
Sitting Vice Presidents John C. Breckinridge (1861), Richard Nixon (1961), Hubert Humphrey (1969), and Al Gore (2001) all announced that they had lost their own bid for the Presidency. . .
The closest Congress has come to amending the Electoral College since 1804 was during the 91st Congress (1969–1971). H.J. Res. 681 proposed the direct election of a President and Vice President, requiring a run off when no candidate received more than 40 percent of the vote. The resolution passed the House in 1969, but failed to pass the Senate.
An alternative to NPVIC would be to keep the Electoral College, but to allocate electors by population, rather than the number of Senators and Representatives. That would keep the concept of individual states having a say in an election, but it would bring back the Constitutional concept of “one-person-one-vote.”
Here’s how unfair the current system is: Wyoming, the least populous state, has three electors, while the most populous, California, has 55. Clearly, California has more say, but not commensurate with the population. Wyoming has one elector for every 192,579 people, but California has one elector for each 719,219. In other words, the people of Wyoming have almost four times as much say in who is elected, per person. In order to have the same electoral voice as Wyoming, California would have to have 205 electors, instead of 55.
That would really shake things up. However, before Hillary fans get too excited, they should note that California is not the only state to get shortchanged. The second and third most populous states, Texas and Florida, would also greatly gain by allotting electors by population. Those two states would have 251—more than California’s 205.
In fact, there is a misperception about 2016. People think Hillary won the most populous states, and Trump won the “empty” states, but that’s not really true. Trump actually won 12 of the 20 most populous states—and 14 of the next 20. When it comes to the “empty” states, Hillary actually won 8 out of the bottom 12.
Hillary’s problem is that her entire “surplus” of votes were in one state—California. In effect, the “excess” votes didn’t count.
Hillary didn’t just “win” some Blue States, she clobbered Trump. Conversely, Trump didn’t just “win” some Red States, he whipped Hillary easily.
California went for Hillary with 61.5% of the vote—a landslide. New York went for Hillary 59%–another “yuge” landslide. Other states that went for Hillary by 60% or more were Maryland, Massachusetts, Hawaii, and DC. A landslide is typically about 54%. These states would also be considered landslides for Hillary: Illinois, Nevada, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont.
Trump topped 60% in Alabama, Kentucky, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, West Virginia, and Wyoming. He won by at least 54% in Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, and South Carolina.
But there were also very close wins: Trump won Georgia and Iowa, (51%), North Carolina (50%), Arizona and Florida (49%), Pennsylvania (48%), Wisconsin and Michigan (47%), and Utah (45%). Close wins for Hillary were Oregon and Virginia (50%), Colorado and Nevada (48%), New Hampshire (47%), Minnesota (46%), and Nevada (48%),
We did our own calculations. We looked at current estimated populations per State, then we divided larger states by the population of Wyoming, decides how many “Wyomings” each State had in population. Then, we multiplied the number of “Wyomings” by 3, which is the number of electors Wyoming has.
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The result would give a new Electoral College—with 1700 electors, not the current 538. Instead of 55, California would have 205. Instead of 38, Texas would have 149. Instead of 29, Florida would have 112. And so on.
The result? According to our calculations, Trump would still have won in the Electoral College, 966 to 734 for Hillary. That’s about a 57% win—basically the same as the 2016 official rate. (The number is a little off in the official total because there were two “faithless electors” who defected from Trump, and five who defected from Hillary.)
One benefit of the Electoral College is that it gives us quick closure. Often, we can know by ten or eleven pm—even before the polls are closed in some western states. We see the big wins and don’t doubt any of them. Then we review the close ones, but it usually comes down to one state, lately, Florida and Ohio. Some opponents of election by popular vote warn that there might be endless recounts.