The path to victory for Hillary Clinton looked all but certain right before the first results started trickling in. In an epic display of crow-eating failure, the pollsters and statisticians had a painful lesson in how to re-cork champagne as the night wore on. But the most painful part may be for Clinton supporters, who get to spend the next four years nursing the wound that she won the popular vote by at least 220,000 ballots, and lost the election by less than 1% in 4 states.
The 1% solution and the 6 state problem.
Clinton and Trump had multiple avenues to victory, based on favorable polling in a handful of swing states, so both campaigns focused two-thirds of their attention on just six states: Florida, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Virginia, and Michigan. If you think about it, there really wasn’t a national campaign for President. 94% of the campaigning was spent in just 12 states, with short shrift and flyovers going to the rest. That’s because the campaigns focus on electoral-college math, not voter math. You are really only important if you live in a state they care about.
In the end, the election swung to Trump because he picked up four swing states. But he did so by less than 1% of the vote in each state! In what seems to be a replay of the 2000 protest vote for Ralph Nader, Clinton’s loss could have been completely avoided were it not for the 3rd party candidates.
Take Florida, where she lost by 120,000 votes. That could have easily been made up by just half of the 270,000 votes cast for Gary Johnson and Jill Stein. Same story in Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin. In fact, the Jill Stein vote of 30,980 in Wisconsin was more than enough to turn the state blue. In Michigan, it’s even slimmer, where Jill Stein got 4 times the votes needed to turn the state blue.
The four states where Clinton lost by 1% account for 75 votes, so if she had taken any three, she would be President-Elect.
Maybe it is time for the popular vote to decide the President?
There are four other times in history that the popular winner lost the electoral college. Andrew Jackson in 1824, Samuel Tilden in 1876, Benjamin Harrison in 1888, and Al Gore in 2000. Hillary Clinton looks to make number 5. Just to put it in starker perspective, over 10% of our Presidents have been elected despite losing the popular vote.
Obviously the winners love the win no matter how it happens, but these popular/electoral splits only serve to divide the country. Given how polarized this nation already is, this election really needed a mandate, instead of a feeble limp across a blurry finish line.
It might be time for us, as a nation, to reconsider the merits of the electoral college. There’s already a solution, called the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact. The idea is the essence of simplicity itself: the states agree to award all their electoral votes to the candidate who wins the popular vote. Ten states and DC have signed onto it already, accounting for a total of 160 electoral votes. If enough states sign on to bring that total to the magic 270, the popular vote would prevail in an election, no matter what the other states did.
The beauty of a popular vote is that the candidates have to care about everyone’s votes, not just the people who live in the states that poll favorably. And of course, the winner will always have the true mandate of the people.
You have the power to change the future of voting in this country.
If you live in California, DC, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, or Washington, then you are already signatories to the popular-vote compact. The rest of you, listen up, because you can actually do something to keep this from happening again. Write your state legislators, state board of elections, and your governors, and tell them that you want your state to sign onto the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact. Just visit http://openstates.org/find_your_legislator/ to find your state lawmakers. Then pick up the phone, write an e-mail, or lick a stamp and get your voice heard!
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