Friday, December 23, 2016

Popular Vote Versus Electoral College (Part I)

The election is over and Liberals are not happy because Clinton received the most votes and lost. Now, they want to eliminate the Electoral College (Clinton won by 2.6 million votes, about 2%, but Trump won the Electoral College 306 to 232). Is this something that should be considered? No, and here are some reasons why:

First, Clinton did not win 50% of the popular vote. She won 48.1% to Trump’s 46.1%. Clinton was really about 2.5 million votes away from earning a plurality of the popular vote. Third Party candidates earned about 5.8% of the vote (the most since Ross Perot ran in 1992 and 1996). If a candidate cannot win at least 50% of the popular vote then they do not have a claim to the popular vote title since most people voted against them. What’s worse, there was a huge “under vote” (people who vote but opt not to vote for the Presidential race) nationally of about 2.5%. Generally, Presidential elections have an under vote of less than 0.5%. But since both Trump and Clinton were so unpopular, the under vote was much higher. Therefore, Clinton’s percentage of the electorate was under well 47% if the under vote was considered. The Clinton campaign was so inept, they spent millions in Chicago, New Orleans, and large California cities with the goal to run up the popular vote. The Clinton campaign was convinced they were going to win the electoral college so they spent more money trying to garner extra votes in states where the outcome was going to be a landslide. The Clinton camp made a huge error by spending no money in Wisconsin and very little in Michigan. Hence, the objective of the Clinton camp was to win the popular vote. Meanwhile, winning the popular vote was not the objective of the Trump camp, they spent their money wisely in battleground states with the objective of winning the electoral college. The bottom line, if winning the popular vote was the goal, then Trump would have implemented a much different campaign strategy.

Secondly, the 2016 election scenario has played out several times in U.S. history. In Presidential elections with a popular vote (the first nine presidential elections did not have a popular vote), the candidate with the most votes lost the election 5 times (14% of the time). In 1824, Andrew Jackson won both the popular vote and electoral vote. However, there were four candidates and no one received a plurality of the electoral vote. Hence, the election went to the House of Representatives and they choose John Quincy Adams over Jackson. In 1876, Rutherford Hayes won the Electoral College by 1 vote and lost the election by about 250,000 votes to Samuel Tilden. In 1888, Benjamin Harrison won the Electoral College by a convincing 65 votes, but lost the popular vote by 90,000 votes to Grover Cleveland. In 2000, George Bush won the Electoral College by 5 votes but lost the election by 550,000 votes. In 1800, there was not a popular vote, but both Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr were tied in the Electoral College. Jefferson won the election after it was decided in the House of Representatives. Our democracy has survived nearly 250 years following the procedure put forth in the Constitution without any serious issues.

Thirdly, the lamest argument by liberals is that Third Party Candidates cost Clinton a plurality in the Electoral College. They claim Clinton would have won in Wisconsin (0.8%), Michigan (0.2%), and Pennsylvania (0.7%) if there were not any third party candidates. In an analysis of Third Party candidates (I did this) – it is estimated that Trump would have received about 4 million votes (52%) to Clinton’s 3.7 million votes (48%) if voters were forced to choose between Trump or Clinton. Maybe Clinton could have won Michigan (probably not) but that would not have been enough for her win the Electoral College. It is unlikely the results would have changed in any state even if Third Party candidates were not in the election. Why? Because the under vote for President was significantly high in 2016 – over 3% in some states. In Nevada, 2.5% of the people voted “None of the Above” in a state Clinton won by 2.4% (less than 0.5% voted “None of the Above” in 2012). Nearly 4% of Californians did not vote for President. Hence, it is quite conceivable that the under vote would have been significantly higher if there were no Third Party options (both candidates were highly unpopular). Besides, Republicans could have made the same claim for Minnesota (that a Third Party candidate cost them the state) where Evan McMullin received 1.8% of the vote (Clinton won Minnesota by 1.4%). McMullin was only on the ballots in 11 states but still finished 5th overall. McMullin voters were highly conservative just as most Jill Stein voters were highly liberal.

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