2016 US Elections results and significance
Presidential Election Results:
US House of Representatives Elections Results:
US Senate Elections Results:
US Gubernatorial Elections Results:
Q) How effective is the system used to select presidential candidates?
The New York Times pointed out in August that the US is home to 324 million people, of which 103 million are children, noncitizens, or felons who all lack the right to vote. Of the remaining 221 million people, 88 million do not tend to vote, even in general elections. A further 73 million tend to vote in the general election but not the primaries. This leaves around 6 0 million people who actually vote in the Republ ican and Democratic primaries (around 30 million in each). In 2016, around half of these 60 million voters supported candidates other than Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton. This means that only 14% of eligible voters, or 9% of the US population, actually voted for Trump and Clinton to be the two main nominees. Supporters of primaries argue that it is positive that voters, rather than party leaders, are able to select nominees for this incredibly significant election. But critics argue that the fraction of voters motivated enough to participate in the primaries are unlikely to be representative of the broader US population, and this can produce polarising candidates lacking broad appeal.
The exit polls above certainly suggest that the primaries did not produce candidates that inspire confidence in the majority of general election voters. Instead, the polls suggest that Trump and Clinton are two of the least popular and least trusted candidates in history. The majority of Trump and Clinton voters felt either concerned or scared about the prospect of the other candidate winning the election. Remarkably, many voters even said that they felt concerned and scared about the prospect of their own candidate winning. Many establishment Republicans, who were opposed to Trump, likely wished that party leaders retained more influence over the selection process. In contrast, many Democrats opposed to Clinton, who arguably benefited from the support of superdelegates, and alleg edly, the Democratic National Committee , would likely argue that party would have produced a more popular candidate without ‘the establishment’.
Q) Does the Electoral College need to be replaced?
1) The winner of the popular vote can still lose the Electoral College:
Prior to 2016, there had been three presidential elections (1876, 1888 and 2000) in which the winner of the Electoral College did not also win the most nationwide votes. In 2016, Donald Trump won a plurality of the vote in 30 states, giving him 306 Electoral Votes, many more than the 270 he needed to win the election. However, while Trump won the most states, he did not win the popular vote. At the latest vote count, Clinton received at least 2 million more votes than her rival. Critics argue that it is unfair that the candidate endorsed by so many more Americans is unable to become the next president. As you can see in the tables above, Trump won the election with a smaller percentage of the popular vote than Republican nominee Mitt Romney lost with in 2012.
Trump argues that he won the election fairly under the rules established by the US Constitution. He says that if the contest had been a popular vote, he would have campaigned differently, spending more time in Democratic safe states with large populations like California and New York. His supporters point out that while Clinton won a plurality (more than any other candidate) of the popular vote, she did not win a majority (more than 50%). They argue that by winning a plurality of the vote in 30 states, compared with Clinton’s 20, the Electoral College has actually ensured that Trump has a broad, national mandate.
However, many Clinton voters have pointed to her lead in the popular vote to question Trump’s mandate as president. When Al Gore controversially won the popular vote but lost the Electoral College in 2000, he only beat George W. Bush by 543,895 votes (0.5%). But Clinton lost the election despite winning 2 million (1.5%) more votes than Trump. Many Clinton supporters are unconvinced by the argument that the Electoral College delivers a stronger mandate than the popular vote. A number of anti-Trump protests
broke out after the election, with many carrying s igns declaring that Trump is ‘Not my president’ and “We don’t accept the president-elect”. Is this a sufficient reason to reconsider the Electoral College? Would a popular vote increase the perceived legitimacy of the winner and ensure a smoother transition of power?
2) Because so few states are competitive, the Electoral College wastes large numbers of votes and gives some voters far more influence than others:
As you can see from the table on page 2, most states award their electoral votes to candidates from the same party, election after election. One of the reasons why Clinton won the popular vote while losing the Electoral College was that she increased her vote share in states like California and Texas, which are so uncompetitive that additional votes were never likely to influence the outcome of the election. All but two states award all of the their electoral votes to the candidate that wins a plurality of the vote in that state.
Clinton received over 3.74 million more votes than Trump in California, winning a higher share of the vote than Obama managed in 2012. However, because California awards all of its electoral votes to the candidate with the most votes, this increased vote share did not matter, as she ultimately won the same 55 Electoral College votes as Obama did in 2012. Likewise, Clinton received thousands more votes in Texas than Obama, but, as both candidates failed to win a plurality, neither received any of the state’s 38 electoral votes. Only two states differ from this ‘winner-takes-all’ approach. Maine and Nebraska both award single electoral votes to the candidate that receives the most votes in each congressional district, and then additional votes to the overall statewide winner. This system produced a slightly more proportional result in Maine, where Trump lost the statewide vote, but won a plurality in Maine’s 2 nd district, giving him 1 of the state’s 5 electoral votes.
As you can see in the table above, Clinton won more of the popular vote in less competitive states, where a particular party tends regularly wins a plurality of the vote. Her support was concentrated, and therefore wasted, in states she was already likely to win. In contrast, Trump’s support was much more conveniently distributed, giving him a plurality of the vote in more of the swing -states that make all the difference to the Electoral College.
Wins in Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania would have given Clinton 278 electoral votes, more than the 270 electoral votes needed to win the election. As you can see from the table above, Trump’s victories in these states were ext remely narrow, especially Michigan, where the difference was only 9,528 votes out of almost 4.8 million. Clinton may have won over 2 million more votes nationally, but the 101,018 more votes that Trump won in these three states won him the election. It is arguable that, if voters living in safe
states, like California, really want to influence the next election, they should move to one of the swing states where every vote really does matter. Since the election, Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer has already proposed a constitutional amendment that would replace the Electoral College with a popular vote. She argued, "The Electoral College is an outdated, undemocratic system that does not reflect our modern society, and it needs to change immediately. Every American should be guaranteed that their vote counts."
3) The focus on swing states has a clear influence on the campaigns:
Supporters of the Electoral College often argue that if it was replaced with a popular vote, than candidates would spend the majority of their time campaigning in densely populated cities, at the expense of more sparsely populated rural areas. Donald Trump has already argued that if the 2016 presidential election had been a popular vote, he would have spent much more time in states like California and New York, which have far larger populations than most other states. However, critics of the Electoral College point out that candidates already campaign largely in cities, but , rather than visiting cities all across the country, they focus on the cities in the handful of swing states where the race is actually competitive.
As you can see in the table above, both Trump and Clinton made the vast majority of their visits to just four states. While both candidates held a number of events in states like Pennsylvania and Michigan, their visits were mostly limited to densely populated cities like Philadelphia and Detroit, rather than the rural parts of the states. Critics of the Electoral College argue that it is wrong that 94% of the campaign events (375 of the 399) were held in just 12 ‘battleground’ states. Supporters of the Electoral College often argue that it gives smaller state s greater influence, ensuring that voters are not overlooked. But, as you can see above, the candidates already overlook small states like Wyoming, Vermont and Alaska because they are safe states. Critics argue that the way to ensure that states receive more attention from the candidates is to make sure that every vote counts, either through introducing a popular vote, or by emulating Maine and Nebraska’s congressional district method of distributing electoral votes. They argue that it is important that, when drafting their policy platforms, candidates are not encouraged to focus predominantly on the views of the small number of independent voters, living in a small number of swing states, that are unlikely to be representative of the broader US population.
However, while the Electoral College encourages candidates to focus on a handful of swing states, this election was a reminder that it can be tactically disastrous to do so. One of the reasons why Clinton lost was that her campaign over estimated her strength in Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, which, as you can see from the table on page two, had given consistent support to Democratic candidates in recent elections. Research by Ad Age and Kantar Media’s Campaign Media Analysis Group found that while the Clinton campaign had spent almost $38 million on advertising in Pennsylvania and over $28 million in New Hampshire by late October, it had only spent a combined $23 million in Michigan, Wisconsin, Colorado, and Virginia. In this case, misleading polling and tactical errors were as much to blame for voters being overlooked as the Electoral College system.
4) The Electoral College arguably no longer works as the Founders envisioned: –
The Founding Fathers were quite afraid of democracy, and, as a result, the US Constitution contains a number of measures designed to limit the influence of the people. It is important to remember that Donald Trump was not elected president on November 8 . Instead, voters elected 538 members of the Electoral College, who will vote for a on their behalf on December 19 th president .
Alexander Hamilton argued that it was important “that the sense of the people” should be considered in the choice of president, but it is “equally desirable, that the immediate election should be made by men most capable of analyzing the qualities adapted to the station.” Founders like Hamilton hoped that by entrusting the final decision to carefully chosen ‘electors’, the office of President would “never fall to the lot of any man who is not in an eminent degree endowed with the requisite qualifications.” As you can see from the exit polls above, the vast majority of Clinton
voters consider Trump to be dishonest, untrustworthy, and unqualified to be president. But even more remarkably, many Trump voters appear to feel the same way, voting for a candidate that they do not believe has the right temperament because of their firm opposition to Clinton.
Since the election, two Washington state electors, who refer to themselves as ‘Hamilton Electors’, have begun a campaign to convince a majority of the 538 electors to vote for someone other than Trump on December 19th. They have suggested backing a ‘compromise candidate’ – a more ‘qualified’ Republican who both Democratic and Republican electors can feel more comfortable supporting. Over 4.5 million people have similarly signed a petition to call for the Electoral College to elect Clinton instead, arguing that she won the popular vote and “Mr. Trump is unfit to serve”. There are no federal laws requiring electors to vote according to the results of the popular vote in their state, and only 29 states have passed laws to bind their electors to results of the popular vote, or face fines of up to $1000. Normally, the idea that ‘faithless electors’ could disregard the public vote is a cause of great criticism, with many arguing that it undermines democracy. But this election is quite unusual. Millions of voters feel that the Electoral College is an anachronism, and want to replace it with a popular vote, while millions more would like to empower electors to elect a president in a way that, while constitutionally possible, would likely spark a political crisis.