Hillary’s Electoral Defeat

Yes, Hillary won the popular vote.  But like others before her, she lost the election based on the Electoral System.  It is important for our citizens to remember that our federal government was designed to serve two groups of constituents – the People and the State legislatures.  A legislative voice is granted equally to the States, regardless of their size, through the Senate because each State is represented by two Senators (100 in total).  The People have a voice in national legislation through their elected members in the House of Representatives (fixed at 435).  This principal of giving a voice to the States and to the People in the legislative process carries over into the election of the President as well through the Electoral College.  The number of Electors for presidential elections is 538.  This total consists of 100 Senators (giving States a voice), the 435 members of the House of Representatives (giving the People a voice), plus 3 more electors for the District of Columbia (giving its People a voice).  270 Electors are needed to win the Presidency.

Understanding our Electoral System

Each State has the power to determine, by State law, the method it will use to allocate its Electors among the Presidential candidates.  Nearly all of the States (48 of the 50, as well as DC) have chosen to use the “winner-takes-all” method.  The other two States (Nebraska and Maine) use the “Congressional-district” method.  Under this Congressional-district method, Electors are given to those Presidential candidates who win the popular vote in each House district in that State and the statewide popular vote for that State’s Senators.

Thus, the Electoral System transforms the Presidential election from a nationwide popular vote to 51 separate popular votes – one in each state plus the one in the District of Columbia.

Why Trump won and Clinton lost

Donald J. Trump is President because he won 30 of the 50 popular votes in the States.  Hillary Clinton won the popular vote in 20 States plus the District of Columbia.  Hillary won the nationwide popular vote because she won 3 of the largest 10 states by a victory margin surpassing 24% on average (California by over 32%).  Donald Trump, on the other hand, won 7 of the largest 10 states by a victory margin of just over 4%.  To become President, it is imperative to win in more States (even by low margins) than it is to win big in concentrated population centers.  Winning big in a few large States may give you a popular vote victory but it will not get you into the Oval Office.

Would Hillary have won the Presidency if all States used the “Congressional-district” method of allocating Electors?  It would have been a closer race, but the answer is still “No.”  Using the “Congressional-district” method nationwide would have resulted in 290 Electoral votes for Donald Trump compared to 248 for Hillary Clinton.  Would Hillary have won if all House delegates (438 in total) were proportionately divided between the two candidates based on the popular vote?  Here again the answer is “No.”  However, Donald Trump would have won the Presidency with only 3 Electors to spare (Trump 273, Clinton 265).[1]

[1] The alternative Electoral Vote calculations are based on final election information provided by the Popular Vote State-Level Data table at Dave Leip’s Atlas of US Presidential Elections at uselectionatlas.org and “2016 Presidential Election Results by Congressional District” by Stephen Wolf, January 30, 2017 from Daily Kos Elections dailykos.com.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s