Posts Tagged ‘Electoral Vote and Popular Vote’

Clinton actually got more votes than Trump

November 10, 2016

The votes are still being counted, but it now seems almost certain that more Americans voted for Hillary Clinton than voted for Donald Trump.

The same thing happened in the 2000 election.  Al Gore received more votes nationwide than George W. Bush.  Two out of the last three Republican victories were with a minority of the votes!

Until and unless the Electoral College is abolished, this is likely to happen again, and always in favor of the Republicans.

trump-clinton1The reason is that Americans do not vote directly for President, but for members of the Electoral College, who then choose a President, and that the Electoral College is tilted in favor of small states—most of them rural states with Republican majorities.

Each state gets a number of electoral votes equal to its representation in the House of Representatives, which is apportioned according to population, plus its representation in the Senate, which is two per state.

Democrats are concentrated in cities and in large states with large cities.  Republicans are more spread out across the country, and are more over-represented in the Senate and in the Electoral College (and also in the House of Representatives, due to gerrymandering).

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The influence of third-party candidates

August 6, 2016

040116-Third-Party

If you go further back in history, the other notable alternatives to the Democrats and Republicans were the Populist (or People’s) Party in 1892, Theodore Roosevelt’s Progressive Party in 1912 and Robert (Fighting Bob) LaFollette’s Progressive Party in 1924 and Henry A. Wallace’s Progressive Party in 1948.

All of these parties except Henry Wallace’s actually carried states.  TR’s Progressives actually received more popular votes and electoral votes than incumbent Republican President William Howard Taft.

The most successful third-party and independent candidates—Theodore Roosevelt, George Wallace and Ross Perot—were celebrities before they ran.

The Populists definitely influenced the major parties.  Democrats in 1896, 1900 and 1908 nominated William Jennings Bryan, who advocated most of their reform platform.

Theodore Roosevelt was not a spoiler.   Public opinion in 1912 favored progressive reform, and Woodrow Wilson, the victor, probably would have received much of the vote that went to TR.

Henry A. Wallace, interestingly, received almost as many popular votes as Strom Thurmond.  They each got about 2.5 percent (as did Ralph Nader in 2000).   But, because Henry Wallace’s votes weren’t concentrated geographically, he didn’t receive any electoral votes (nor did Nader).

It’s noteworthy how few votes Thurmond needed to carry four states—Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and South Carolina.   I wonder how much was due to apathy and how much to voter suppression.   I read somewhere that in the 1928 election, the total votes cast in the former Confederate states were less than the voter turnout just in New York state.

Thurmond’s and George Wallace’s candidacies, along with Barry Goldwater’s candidacy in 1964, were part of the transition of the South from predominantly Democratic to predominantly Republican.

Ross Perot may have been a spoiler.   Bill Clinton’s 1992 victory was narrow, and I think Perot took away more votes from George H.W. Bush than from Clinton.  Perot’s emphasis on balancing the budget may have influenced Clinton, but his opposition to NAFTA most certainly did not.

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Another problem with the electoral college

November 10, 2012

The brilliant statistical election analyst, Nate Silver, pointed out that if Mitt Romney had won the popular vote by as big a margin as Barack Obama did, he would still have lost the electoral vote, provided the distribution of his vote among the states was the same as it was.

Silver-Nate-artSilver said Romney would have had to win by three percentage points—more than any Republican since George H.W. Bush in 1988—in order to win the electoral vote.  Moreover, Silver said, the Democratic advantage in the electoral vote is likely to persist for the next few elections.

I’m of the opinion that the Presidential candidate who gets a majority of the votes is the one who ought to be declared the winner.  I’m aware that the rules are different, and I don’t blame anybody for playing by those rules, but I think the rules should be changed.

Besides being more fair and just, an election by popular vote would dilute the influence of voter suppression on the Presidential election.  Voter suppression matters most when, as in Florida in 2000, a small number of votes more or less than tip the electoral votes of a big state.

Click on As Nation and Parties Change, Republicans Are At an Electoral College Disadvantage for Nate Silver’s full report in his FiveThirtyEight column.

Click on National Popular Vote for a plan for reforming the Electoral College.