Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Claims About the Nationwide Popular Vote, US Presidential Election

Hillary Clinton's apparent lead in the nationwide popular vote continues to grow as previously uncounted ballots get included. As the additional votes pile up, so do comments about unfairness in the US election system, since these votes will make no difference in the outcome. People are repeating their calls for repeal of the electoral college system. Although we need to work through this debate (again), I think our biggest problems lie not in the electoral college, but in the primary election system, but I digress. In full disclosure, I must admit that I personally could not get myself to vote for either of the leading candidates, and I did not favor any of the third party candidates either. I think we as a nation can do better.

I posed one contrarian view providing some reasoning for retaining the electoral college:

The point of this posting is to comment on how some Clinton voters argue that the system is unfair since she seems to be leading by millions of votes nationwide. If the election were held again, they might claim, given the same vote margins, but with the conclusion determined by the popular vote, that she would have won and would even have had a substantial mandate. This perspective is understandable, but not on firm logical ground.

The popular vote situation in the electoral college system would not be the same as the popular vote in an election set up from the start as one to be decided by the popular vote. There may be millions of conservative voters in Washington, Oregon, California, Illinois, New York, and Massachusetts (for examples), who didn't bother to vote in the present system because they did not see their votes as making any difference, because large majorities in these states vote for Democrats. One could claim the same thing about left leaning voters in red states. More such people may have voted in a different system. My point is that in the present system, the popular vote nationwide is meaningless and possibly misleading. Only if the election were posed from the start as determined by the nationwide popular vote would we actually know what that vote would be. These same claims would hold true if the tables were turned.

Both candidates ran knowing the electoral process. That framework determined their efforts and the outcome. For better or worse, Trump won in that framework.

We should be spending more of our time concentrating on how to make the nation function well regardless of who is leading it.