Electoral Politics 2016 and Electoral Reform

The 2016 Election Process Showed:

  1. Hillary Clinton had more popular votes than any other candidate, including Donald Trump; Trump received only about 26% of the votes of all those eligible to vote. Yet Trump will be the legally elected president of the United States because of the way the Electoral College system distorts the popular vote, and the refusal by the majority of those eligible to vote for any candidate.
  2. It would be relatively easy to reform the Electoral College system’s effects to produce a more democratic result without a constitutional amendment, using the National Popular Vote proposal.


Final figures will not change results significantly, percentages  should  hold.[2]. An objective summary of the election result in 2016 might read:

“Donald Trump won the 2016 election under prevailing law. However, Hillary Clinton would have won that election, by 1,362,821  actual votes (at this  count), were it not for the distortion of the Electoral College. Trump lost the election badly, if one included all the voters that did NOT vote for him, by a vote of approximately 170,000,000. Of those eligible to vote, 73.5%  did not vote, or voted for someone other than Trump.  Trump owes is victory to a minority of the American people. and a minority of the actual voters. A more democratic result would have been achieved by the adoption of the National Popular Vote Proposal and the adoption of Election Day as a National {paid} holiday.”

  • Trump Popular Vote           61,864,015        Electoral Vote  306;   % of  total Popular vote 46.7%

·       Green    Popular vote    1,242,493·       Libertarian Popular       4,164,589

·       Clinton Popular Vote   63,541,056     Electoral Vote   232;  %  of total Popular vote 487%

·       Non-Trump  Popular Vote    70,214,814                                           %  of total Popular vote  53.3%

  • Total Popular vote                            131,748,170              % of total Popular vote 100%
  • Total population eligible to vote 232,000,000
  • Total eligible population not voting             100,251,830
  • Total voting for Trump of all eligible                  61,864,015            % of all eligible to vote  5%
  • Total eligible population not voting for Trump 170,472,644            % of all eligible to vote  5%


  • George Bush (electoral vote winner) vs. Al Gore in 2000: Al Gore (D) won the popular vote by a slim and still disputed margin.
  • Benjamin Harrison (electoral vote winner 233 t0 168) vs. Grover Cleveland (D) who won the popular vote in 1888 by 90,000 votes.
  • Rutherford B. Hayes (winner) vs. Samuel J. Tilden in 1876: Tilden (D) won the popular vote by 264,292 votes
  • John Quincy Adams won the electoral vote in 1824 but lost the popular vote to Andrew Jackson by 44,804 votes in 1824

Hawaii has a population of only 1.36 million but has 4 electoral votes while Oregon has a population 3 times that size (3.8 million) but only 7 electoral votes. If the power of a single vote were calculated in terms of number of number of people per electoral vote, states like New York (519,000 people per electoral vote) and California (508,000 people per electoral vote) would lose. The winners would be states like Wyoming (143,000 people per electoral vote) and North Dakota (174,000 people per electoral vote).[1]

In the 2012 presidential election, Mitt Romney won 48% of the popular vote but only 38% of the electoral vote.

Why do the Electoral College results differ from the national popular vote?[3]   Could be:

1.  Because small states have an unfair number of electoral votes i.e. 3 minimum for every state regardless of population, s e.g. Vermont gets 3 votes although by population it would get only one.

2. Gerrymandering, if in the present system states figured the winner in their state by the one that won the most Congressional districts, and they use districts that are gerrymandered. I don’t believe any state does this, however

3. If in the present system, winner takes all by plurality, many, or some key, states have a plurality significantly smaller than a majority, in effect discounting the balance of votes by non-plurality voters which would however count if elections were by national majority vote, as in National Popular Voting.

1.  Would require a constitutional amendment if directly challenged, has long been under discussion, and gained little support since. National popular vote (NPV) would also eliminate the skewed result..
2. Are facts, but not relevant here..
3. The National Popular Voting proposal would eliminate the problem more easily than a Constitutional Amendment.[4]


Adopt the The National Popular Vote

The National Popular Vote proposal (NPV} is simple. It would have every state allocate its Electoral College votes in the same proportion as the national popular vote. If a majority of the states adopted it, it would guarantee that the Electoral College result would be the same as the national popular vote.

NPV has three big advantages: It is intuitively fairer, more democratic, and is simple and relatively easy to understand. And it does not necessarily favor either major political party today, and has already bi-partisan support in at least 11 states, with more considering it. And it solves the constitutional problem that  Electoral College votes are weighted in favor of small states, because however many electoral votes a given state has, their votes will be caste to to accord with the national popular vote result.

It has two disadvantages: It does not solve the plurality/minor parties’ problem, but to do that would complicate the initial reform effort substantially.  And it might still permit a plurality to win the Presidency. Only adding even more complicated (although fairer) Proportional voting methods would solve that problem (and be fairer to minor party voters as well), but seems far too cumbersome for at least the first effort at reform.

Politically, it is a positive demand, for four reasons:

  • First, it is right. It improves democracy in government, and is likely (although not guaranteed) to advance social justice in its substantive results.
  • Second, it is a unifying demand, putting the leftish, Sanders wing of the Democratic Party into contact with the mainstream, and facilitating communication and persuasion in on-going political work.
  • Third, it highlights Trump’s minority status, accentuating how far he is from a mandate for his policies, how strong the argument is that he must recognize the needs and demands of the majority of the voters in what he does while still in office. And further, it is achievable –.it has been enacted into law in 11 states with 165 electoral votes.(270 needed), and has further been passed by one chamber in 3 Republican and 1 Democratic-controlled legislature

The proportion of actual voters casting ballots among present and potential voters is strikingly less in the United States than in other developed democratic countries. Part of the reason doubt lies in the skepticism about the difference it makes, with neither major party offering a break-through in meeting voters’ deepest concerns. But a part of the low number actually voting lies also in the obstacles placed in the way of registration to vote in many states, which the courts are partially remedying. But there is a simple measure that would undoubtedly be helpful in increasing the number of voters actually voting.

Make Election Day a national holiday.

Perhaps even provide that it be a paid holiday, in covered employment, as many state laws and some government contracts now provide for sick leave—perhaps by requiring Election Day as a paid holiday under the Fair Labor Standards Act.

Like NPV, the call for Election Day as a holiday is simply a good government measure, one that advances democracy, and should not become a partisan political issues. It would surely have a healthy, and progressive, impact both on how many vote and who votes; no one should  object to it. And the country is surely rich enough so that it can afford one day a year of less production in the cause of better and more responsive government. And, for that matter , wouldn’to  one day less of being required to go to work to make a living advance he quality of life for all our people?

Statements such as “Trump won by a heavy majority, 302 vs.232” are factually false, and need constant rebuttal. Trump can claim support only from a quarter of the population eligible to vote.

Democracy requires a long over-due change in the Electoral College system, and the proposal for a National Popular Vote seems the most feasible way to achieve that result.. Strong pressure for states to adopt the National Popular Voting proposal is needed, and should be a priority demand.

And if we really want to counter the drive to restrict voting , making the day of the national election a national  holiday would be an easy way to advance the cause.

[See blog# 92a- Electoral Reform: Outing the 1%    for a brief supplement]


[1] These figures are from an update in https://www.thenation.com/article/hillary-clintons-popular-vote-victory-is-unprecedented-and-still-growing/. Votes are still being counted, particularly for the Green and Libertarian Parties, and absentee ballot counts are not completed. Formally, there will not be final results until the Electoral College meets December 13. https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/3/5. http://www.al.com/news/index.ssf/2016/11/trump_clinton_latest_2016_pres.html. I thank Aaron Marcuse-Kubitza for help in assembling these figures and the logical argument based on them. Most recent figures from the independent Cook Political Report, available at http://www.ibtimes.com/latest-2016-election-results-clinton-trump-popular-vote-final-tally-depends-4-million-2447595. An excellent discussion by John Nichols  in The Nation, Hillary Clinton’s Popular-Vote Victory Is Unprecedented—and Still Growing, November 15, 2016, For other discussions, see  https://www.thenation.com/article/hillary-clintons-popular-vote-victory-is-unprecedented-and-still-growing/ and http://www.usmagazine.com/celebrity-news/news/hillary-clinton-won-popular-vote-over-donald-trump-but-by-how-much-w451352, For state by state results see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_presidential_election,_2016#Results_by_state http://www.businessinsider.com/trump-voter-turnout-records-history-obama-clinton-2016-11

[3] For the history of the Electoral College, tracing its linkage at its founding to the protection of slavery , see http://fusion.net/story/369039/electoral-college-racist-trump/

[4] Effectively, 66% of states plus convention for constitutional amendment. 51% of states by Electoral College votes for NPV.

Blog #92a – Electoral Reform: Outing the 1%

[Supplement to Blog #92 –  Electoral Politics 2016 and Electoral Reform]

Dealing with the implications of Donald Trump’s victory by pushing for reforms in the way presidents are elected may seem a very mild way to face what are certainly immediate as well as long-range problems ,. In fact, however, they are transformative demands, transformative in the sense that they both logically and politically to deeper but critically related problems, to the questioning they are related to the underlying issues of power and injustice that need to be faced. Yet they do lead straight to such further questions: does not the role of money in the electoral process need to be radically addressed, beyond the mechanics of the election process? And thus further the effects of the growing inequalities of wealth in our society? And an examination of what the results of the skewed election and Trump’s accession to power mean for democracy as a whole? Is not raising the question of a distorted electoral process an organizing issue when it is related to who benefits and who is excluded by the distortions? bb

The results are already very dramatically and symbolically apparent in the early conduct of Trump’s President-elect actions.

Symbolically, Trump is organizing his government, not out of public space available to him, but out  of the Trump Tower, a private 58-story luxury office/residential building on Fifth Avenue in New York City , with his name in giant letters on top of it, a dominant emblem of Lower Manhattan, a global business and financial center.. It will be retrofitted as a Presidential get-away, [1] at taxpayers’ expense, Government agencies will pay rent – to Trump — for space they need to occupy in the building. Condos, on higher floors below Trump’s own three story penthouse, go for up to $11,000,000.  Not an apt setting where ordinary people would feel they would be welcome to participate in the government, as parts of government “of the people.” Rather, homes and offices for the 1%.

But then Donald Trump is hardly himself one of the people. He prides himself on being a billionaire, is a large-scale real estate developer, had properties and investments globally, travels in is own jet, hires and fires people to serve him, some of whom he treats shabbily. He is certainly one of the 1%.

His policies, what we know of them, are largely skewed in favor of the rich: tax cuts for the rich,, insecurity and low wages for immigrants, relaxation of regulations protecting everybody’s environment, luxury resorts, casinos, branding of all sorts of luxury goods aimed at the largest ends of the  market. For the use and enjoyment of the 1%

With fully democratic elections, enabling a fully participatory popular democracy, we might be able to make America democratic again, to give it a government by the people, of the people , for the people,– and make Donald Trump’s government of the 1%, by the 1%, and for the 1% vanish from the earth.



[1] https://www.washingtonpost.com/posteverything/wp/2016/11/18/how-donald-trump-will-retrofit-midtown-manhattan-as-a-presidential-getaway/?hpid=hp_no-name_opinion-card-b%3Ahomepage%2Fstory&utm_term=.180e8c019787


Blog #92b – Effective Votes per Voter, Trump vs. Clinton   Electoral College vs. National Popular

62,000,000 actual votes result in 306 Electoral College  votes, for Trump

64,000,000 actual votes result in 232 Electoral College votes fir Clinton

 306 electoral college votes divided b 62,000,000 voters =  0.000004935 EC votes per voter for Trump


232 electoral college votes divided b 62,000,000 voters =  0.000003682 EC votes per voter for Clinton

Each Trump vote is worth 1.34024162736 times more in the EC voting than is each Clinton voter

Each Clinton vote is worth only ¾ of each Trump vote.in the EC vote cont.


The argument in defense of the Electoral College, now sometimes made, that it did not affect the outcome in the 2016 election, even though a national  popular vote shows Hillary Clinton   winning over Donald Trump now by over 2,000,000 votes, is that if the rules had been to have the popular  vote determine  the result  Trump  would have campaigned differently and won anyway; is persuasive Indeed, Trump  may have campaigned differently  and gotten a different result; but so would Clinton  . There is no reason to believe it would have made more of a difference in the number of voters voting for Trump than the in the number of those voting for Clinton.


  1. Juan Corso November 26, 2016 12:54 am 

    Voting in the USA is just a futile exercise that legitimate a two party system owned by the top 1%. What people need to do is stop voting and legitimizing the system. People not voting at all is the only way you are going to have a serious conversation at a national level in America. After that you can have a reform.

  2. Joe Rigney November 25, 2016 9:17 pm 

    I don’t understand how it would be easier to change the way all states proportion their electoral votes than it would be to muster 2/3 of the states to support a constitutional amendment.

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