In Defense of the Electoral Vote

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One nice thing about Facebook is that I get “Feeds” on things I like.  Clemson football news, new releases or concerts by favorite music artists, and funny/interesting things that friends choose to post.  But then there’s election season, when a good number of my friends become stridently liberal or conservative, as opposed to pleasantly mute on the subject.  Their offerings – videos, articles and the like – aren’t meant to persuade.  They’re efforts to say “The election wasn’t fair.  The wrong person won.” I’d hoped that these would disappear, but two persistent threads remain – Russian hacking affecting the vote and the popular vote margin, either or both of which should cause Trump Electors to change their votes in favor of another candidate. 

I get that most everyone had reasons to vote for either candidate, and I get that most everyone had reasons to vote against either candidate, including both policy preferences and character issues.  But this is the system, and, for the losers, no.  Participation trophies are not handed out. 

The hacking argument is shell game hoping the audience loses track of the ball.   The argument essentially opines that if the Russians hacked/obtained damaging emails about Clinton, then Trump is implicitly guilty of winning by outside influence.  Eh, sorry.  The email releases on Wiki and elsewhere document deceit and collusion among Clinton, her staffers, the DNC, and the media – ensuring Sanders finished second in the primaries, coordinating protests and confrontations at Trump rallies, arranging media talking points…  Talk about an inconvenient truth.  The truth is there are consequences to actions, and Clinton assuredly suffered just that in the general election.

As for the electoral system, there are actually two parts with traction.  The first is that Trump is unqualified to lead.  He’s got some unpleasant baggage and observable gaffes in public discourse via Twitter.  That said, the other candidate had a lot of baggage too, stating that half of Trump supporters were deplorable which reinforced a persona focused on political gain rather than actual concern for the American voter.   The strongest point against Trump may be the allegations of his treatment of women, but as he adroitly pointed out, liberals had no problem with Bill Clinton among allegations that were much worse.  It’s an unpleasant result regardless of who won.  That said, post-election, many may not like Trump’s Cabinet choices, but they do reflect well on his campaign priorities.

The second aspect was that the majority should have a voice, that the net 2.9 million people weren’t “heard” in the outcome.  That makes sense to people who don’t pause and consider things in context.  If Clinton had won, then 63M voters for Trump wouldn’t be “heard” either. 

This was a good time to revisit and see if I could find unbiased information about its origins and intent, actually, not the easiest thing to do among all the recent decrying of the system.  Here’s one, though, that seems factual and absent opinions.  One notable quote from this article – not a Constitutional citation by any means – is that absent an electoral system, “the choice of president would always be decided by the largest, most populous States with little regard for the smaller ones.”   Well, that doesn’t seem fair, either, does it?  Let’s test the theory.

“Battleground” States.  FL, OH, PA, WI, VA – only in Florida did Clinton record more votes than President Obama in 2012.  If 800,000 or so of those 2.9M votes were spread across four States, Trump would have been steamrolled.

Then look at the States with large cities – New York, Illinois, California.   Clinton gained fewer votes than Obama in these Democratic strongholds as well.  She wasn’t nearly as popular with her own party, even in a campaign where many were likely to vote if only to keep Trump out of office.

  Obama 2012 Clinton 2016
CA 7,854,285 7,362,490
FL 4,237,756 4,485,745
IL 3,019,512 2,977,498
OH 2,827,709 2,317,001
NY 4,485,741 4,143,874
PA 2,990,274 2,844,705
VA 1,971,820 1,916,845
WI 1,620,985 1,382,210


But here’s the clincher, given that the most recent reports show that, again, Clinton is ahead in the popular vote by 2.9M votes.  California: The difference between Clinton and Trump, as of the time of this writing, is 3,446,281 votes in favor of Clinton.  The total votes in the other 49 States therefore give Trump, who gained more votes than any other Republican candidate in history, a majority elsewhere else.   Is it still fair that Clinton should win? 


Results by state, shaded according to winning candidate's percentage of the vote 2016.svg
Image by Ali Zifan -2016, CC BY-SA 4.0, Link




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