Electoral College problems are deep, permanent — and getting worse

REUTERS/Jonathan Drake
North Carolina electors rehearsing on Sunday for Monday's Electoral College vote in the State Capitol building in Raleigh, North Carolina.

The Electoral College system is a terrible system. People are defending it at the moment with bad logic and bad history. If you think I am saying this now only because of Donald Trump, you are wrong. I’ve been saying it for years. Here’s one of my better summaries of reasons why the E-College is way sub-optimal, and it’s dated 2012, when I surely wasn’t thinking about Trump.

Yes, the reason the anti-ECollege arguments are now front and center are about Trumpism or, more accurately, anti-Trumpism, or, even more accurately they are about can’t-anything-save-us-from-this-lying-groping-chiseling-race-baiting-megalomaniac cries for help.

On Sunday, the Wall Street Journal quoted Brian Westrate, a Wisconsin Republican elector who plans to vote for Trump, that he had received more than 600 letters – just in Friday’s mail –urging to dump Trump. Randy Evans, a Republican elector from Georgia who also plan to vote for Trump,  said he has received about 12,000 emails and “I don’t know how many inches thick of letters just yesterday.” This is not normal. This is special for Trump and those who hope to dump him. The Journal’s reporting led it to predict that the Trump dumpers will not prevail.

Some states have laws that bind the electors to vote according to the outcome of the state’s presidential vote, although no one has ever been prosecuted for violating that law. So far, I’ve still seen only one elector, Texan Republican Christopher Suprun, who has publicly announced his intent to refuse to vote for Trump.

But the problems with the E-College are deep and permanent and, actually, getting worse. Some state laws include the power of the party to remove and replace anyone who breaks ranks. Right now (I’m writing this on Sunday), various Republicans in Republican-controlled states are scrambling to replace the lawfully chosen Republican electors in their own states — whom the Republicans themselves chose — because they are worried that enough of them to change the outcome might refuse to vote for Trump.

What happens to the final outcome even if Trump falls below 270 Electoral College-votes today is highly unclear, as I laid out last week. It is clear that if no one gets 270 votes today, the choice of the president is thrown into the U.S. House of Representatives.

Of course, neither those engaged in the effort to “steal” Trump’s victory by convincing electors to defect from voting the party line nor those who are trying to replace those electors to protect Trump’s “victory” are truly fans of the Electoral College. What’s going on now is almost entirely about Trump and/or partisanship. But it illustrates why the E-College system is such a mess, and will only become more so until we fix it — and we probably cannot fix it, at least for the foreseeable future, although it could possibly be made better. (One longshot make-it-better is at the bottom of this post.)

In the interest of open-mindedness and fair play, I should link tothis George Will column headlined “The Electoral College is an excellent system.”  Will is smart and knowledgeable and I would put him in the very important category of “intellectually honest,” by which I mean he is generally unwilling to spout pure nonsense out of partisan or ideological loyalty. He’s also haughty and snotty (if those two words, which happen to rhyme, don’t mean exactly the same thing). And, in that mode, he calls those who are troubled by the two instances of the past five elections in which the popular vote loser won the presidency “those who make a fetish of simpleminded majoritarianism.” (He refers, of course, to the Bush-Gore election of 2000 and the current fandango. And he apparently thinks the idea that the one who gets the most votes should win is “simpleminded.”)

Snotty and haughty, but Will does bring up the best argument against changing the system of electing a president to simple nationwide popular vote. That argument is that if we had an incredibly close outcome in such an election, so close that a recount was justified, we would have to recount the entire nation. Think about the mess that the Florida recount was in 2000, and multiply that by 51. That is scary, and anyone who advocates a simple popular vote winner system must deal with it.

But just because you can name a problem with one of the potential reforms doesn’t make the E-College system an “excellent” one. It has many flaws, of which the possibility of the popular vote winner losing is just one of the most famous. The Electoral College system also overweights the impact of the small states relative to the large states (that’s because each state gets two “bonus” electoral votes above the number its population would justify). The E-College distorts the campaign by rendering about 40 states irrelevant, since only a relative few “swing” states are worth a campaign’s time and attention. (You can rest quite assured that the Framers weren’t thinking about how their system might affect TV ad buys in the weeks before the election. In fact, the Framers did not require states to hold popular elections at all for president, and there is still no such requirement in the Constitution. It only required each state to appoint electors, by any means it chose, and it authorized those electors to cast the most meaningful votes in the presidential election process.)

The E-College system, as evolved along with the two-party system, is among the factors that forces those Americans who prefer to vote for a minor party or an independent candidate to choose between “wasting” their vote and settling on a “lesser-of-two-evils decision.” There are ways around the problem, liked ranked-choice voting, but that is not in place in any state for presidential voting. It would be an idea worth trying.

And, when an election gets close, the cobwebs of the E-College system, as evolved, are swept aside and we are forced to consider any number of troubling, sneaky, democracy-defying outcomes including the ones we are considering now.

(You could ask yourself: If the electors have no discretion, why are they appointed, why do they have to meet, why do they have to vote? This question will lead into the history of how this contraption got invented, and how the original plan has been subverted.)

George Will, to his credit, does not (as others often do) pretend that all of this is how the Framers planned for things to go. The Framers did their framing at a time when there were no national parties, no national media, no tradition of candidates running around the country campaigning. They obviously intended the electors to have the freedom to vote for whoever they thought would make a good president – exactly the role that the “Hamilton Electors” movement is trying to make possible, although, as I said above, the effort to empower the electors in this way is not motivated primarily by a desire to fix some of the problems with the E-College.

The legal movement behind the current movement to empower the electors to exercise their own judgment is led by Harvard Law Professor Lawrence Lessig. I don’t expect it to derail Trump’s inauguration (although we’ll find that out by sundown today, unless something really weird happens).

But in the course of this effort, Lessig did write up a suggestion that (according to me) would improve the situation quite a bit. He suggested that instead of states awarding all their electoral votes to the plurality winner of the state’s popular vote, the E-Votes should be apportioned according to the percentage of popular vote the tickets received. In case that’s unclear, I’ll try to clarify:

Imagine a state with 10 electoral votes. If the Democratic ticket carried the state by a popular vote margin of 60-40 percent, the Democrat would be awarded six electoral votes, and the Republican would get four. If a strong third party got 10 percent, that party would get one electoral vote and, if the two major party nominees split the state with 50-40 percent, then the E-votes would be apportioned 5-4-1. (Lessig suggests that the new, proportional system of allocating electoral votes should ignore candidates who get less than 5 percent in a given state.)

His idea would address a few of the things that bother me about the way the E-College works now. As you know, all but two states (Maine and Nebraska) award their entire portion of E-votes to the statewide plurality winner. But winner-take-all is not in the Constitution, nor was it in the minds of the Framers.

It happens every cycle that some state goes for one of the major party tickets by a relative few votes, less than a percent or two of the total, and often without even getting a majority in that state, and yet walks away with 100 percent of the electoral votes.

The malapportionment of electoral votes (to which I referred above) by giving each state two bonus e-votes that are not reflective of their population is mandated in the Constitution, and so cannot be challenged on constitutional grounds. (It’s probably a bad idea, but it can’t be unconstitutional if it’s in the Constitution.) But, the bigger malapportionment of electoral voting is the winner-take-all bit for each state. That’s not in the Constitution, which is why Maine and Nebraska are able to adopt a different method.

Lessig suggests that the winner-take-all feature is, at least arguably, UNconstitutional on equal protection grounds and as a violation of the principle of one-person, one vote. If you torture the numbers properly, Lessig argues (building on an argument by another lawyer named Jerry Sims), it would be possible to win the presidency with just 23 percent of the total national popular vote, by winning bare pluralities in the smaller states.

That’s an extreme, unlikely scenario. But if a state is carried by Ticket A with a 55-45 margin and gets 100 percent of the electoral votes, could those 45 percent, whose votes had no effect on the real outcome as measured in E-votes, argue that they had been denied equal treatment not because of any protected constitutional provision but because of their state’s decision to adopt winner-take-all?

“What about the unfairness being felt by the millions of voters whose votes were effectively diluted, or essentially disenfranchised? Why doesn’t their harm also weigh in the balance?” Lessig asks.

Lessig’s full argument is here.

Lessig understands constitutional law a lot better than I do. I have trouble believing the Supreme Court would buy his argument. I do believe that if states all moved to award electoral votes proportionally based on the vote, it would improve several of the flaws in the terrible E-College system. 

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Comments (42)

  1. Submitted by Pat Terry on 12/19/2016 - 09:49 am.

    George Will

    Will is about as intellectually dishonest as anyone there is. He is a master of ignoring data for cherry-picked anecdotes. A true spouter of nonsense.

  2. Submitted by Ron Gotzman on 12/19/2016 - 10:51 am.

    More of the same….

    James Michener in 1968 wrote one of the best books on the EC called “Presidential Lottery.” It has been interesting reading Mr. Black and all the other pro and con arguments for the EC since the election. I am still not convinced that anything needs “fixing.”

    It has also been entertaining to follow the “campaign” to turn votes against trump in the EC by the radical democrats and Hollywood types. This is truly their “birther moment.”

    Really, they are just trying to delegitimize Trump and damage is upcoming presidency as much as possible.

    How would those who hold the popular vote view deal with a death of a “president elect?” How would they deal with the death of a president and VP elect before the inauguration?

    There are problems with any view, but the electoral college has saved us this year the rule of the democrats on the west coast and north east. I think that is what it was designed to do.

    • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 12/19/2016 - 01:07 pm.

      Amendment XX, section 3

      “How would those who hold the popular vote deal with a death of a ‘president elect?’ How would they deal with the death of a president and VP-elect before the inauguration?”

      I can’t speak for all those who hold the popular vote view, but I see no reason why the existing mechanism couldn’t handle either situation:

      “If, at the time fixed for the beginning of the term of the President, the President elect shall have died, the Vice President elect shall become President. If a President shall not have been chosen before the time fixed for the beginning of his term, or if the President elect shall have failed to qualify, then the Vice President elect shall act as President until a President shall have qualified; and the Congress may by law provide for the case wherein neither a President elect nor a Vice President elect shall have qualified, declaring who shall then act as President, or the manner in which one who is to act shall be selected, and such person shall act accordingly until a President or Vice President shall have qualified.”

      The Presidential Succession Act provides for the Speaker of the House to take over if there is a vacancy in both offices.

    • Submitted by warren kapsner on 12/19/2016 - 01:40 pm.

      electoral college

      The Electoral College could be scraped, changed or updated but there is no foolproof way to fix it. Whatever we do will still leave many problems. Many people are upset this year and looking for someone or something to blame. This Great Nation has done very well for over two hundred years with the systems we have, therefore I feel there has to be a very powerful reason to change things, not just that many people are upset with the outcome of a single election.
      The statistics this year are: Out of 3,141 counties Clinton won 57 and Trump won 3,084.. Clinton won the popular vote by some 2 million votes. New York has 62 counties, Trump won 46 and Clinton won 16 counties but the 4 out of 5 counties she won that encompass New York City, she won by over 2 million votes so these 4 counties would have decided this years election in a popular vote system. I think it is far better to have the President elected by a cross section (3,084 counties) of the entire nation than the outcome always selected by New York City, Chicago, Los Angeles and few more large democratic cities. There is no doubt that would be the result with a popular vote system.

      • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 12/19/2016 - 03:36 pm.

        What are “Counties,” and Why Should We Care?

        I’ve seen this statistic too often to think it means anything. What difference do “Counties” make? They are not mentioned in the Constitution at all. They are just divisions of a land mass. Loving County, Texas, has around 80 people living in it. Los Angeles County has 9.8 million. Are they supposed to be afforded equal representation?

        I really do not understand this veneration of acreage I have been hearing. The last time I looked (which, coincidentally, was this morning) the Preamble to the Constitution started with “We, the People . . .,” not “We, the Dirt, Rocks, and Trees . . .”

      • Submitted by Frank Phelan on 12/19/2016 - 08:35 pm.

        Elitest Putdowns

        As an urbanite I’m really tired of the elitism I’m hearing. I’m constantly being told that I’m ignorant, that I just don’t understand the real world. And because I’m so naive, my vote should be discounted. Seriously, have you any idea how smug you sound? Because we live on a smaller foot print, my salt of the earth neighbors and I are somehow less qualified to choose the president? And it’s progressives that look down on people?

        My neighbors and I work hard on the job and in building our community. We help each other, we reach out to each other. We have block parties. We look after our older neighbors. By what measure do you say our votes count less because there are more of us in our county compared to other counties?

        This idea is so condescending it is both insulting & revolting.

        • Submitted by Dennis Wagner on 12/24/2016 - 12:43 pm.


          The truth is that “Urban votes” count less than suburban.
          A simple math example: California has a population of 38.8 Million, Wyoming 582,283., Yet Wyoming gets 2 Senators, and California gets 2. Meaning that Wyoming gets a senator for every 291,1412.5 people, California on the other hand, 1 for every 19,400,000, Based on this simple example, California voters are short ~ 66.63 Senators. Perhaps another way to put it, 38,217,717 California votes don’t count!
          What again was that elitist put down?

  3. Submitted by Bob Petersen on 12/19/2016 - 11:29 am.

    What about…

    Those states that go partial such as 49% to 44% or $48% to 46%?
    Who decides that it is close to a tie or the number crunching to give 1 more electoral vote than another?
    That line of apportionment is not as simple as it seems. Nebraska apportions to each precinct and New Hampshire is a mixture.
    Also, think about the recount repercussions, just like a pure national vote.

    Then again, all of this is brought up by people who just hated seeing Trump win.

  4. Submitted by lee wick on 12/19/2016 - 11:31 am.

    Make Believe

    Lot of nonsense because of disappointment. Another swipe at the founding fathers.

    • Submitted by Dennis Wagner on 12/24/2016 - 12:54 pm.


      I don’t think the founders thought they had it perfect from the get go. They did the best they could and passed it on to future generations, Rightly, don’t think they could imagine the US as it exists today either, The population of the US at the revolution was ~ 2.5 M, today ~ 324.1 M ~130 X larger, the land mass all East of the Mississippi, now it stretches to the arctic and across the Pacific, communication all horse back, today you can call any place on the planet in seconds. They said what they said for the times and explained it best they could, ironically, there were probably less learned men per populous at the time than today, Not sure what is make believe, other than folks voicing their opinion about the future of what we think used to be called a democracy now turning into a fascist state. Did you note North Carolina is already there?

  5. Submitted by Connie Sullivan on 12/19/2016 - 12:02 pm.

    Clinton: 2.6 million more votes than Trump in 2016

    And in 2000, Gore with at least half a million more national votes than Bush.

    Some of us are really tired of Democratic candidates for President winning the national vote count but “losing” the election because of the Electoral College, which was invented in late 18th century America to preclude the results of the vote by an ignorant and emotional public.

    First: In today’s climate, we can’t risk a Constitutional Convention to address the problems of the Electoral College; many of the rights and protections we have would be obliterated by the GOP (freedom of the press, freedom of speech, and other protections). So, we have to keep the College in.

    Second, as Minnesota 2016 shows, it would compound our problem to let county or Congressional District majorities, rather than a state total or percentage count per candidate, decide how a state’s Electoral College votes get cast. We can split hairs over how to allot the EC votes with a 48-49 percent split on the state level, but that’s fairer than allotting 100% to the 49%! Trump would have gotten almost half of Minnesota’s EC ballots with a proportional divide. But nationwide, we’d have had a Clinton presidency by splitting proportionately those Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin votes (and others across the nation) where Clinton would have had almost half the votes but got none under the present system.

    The only other option I’ve seen has the built-in problem of maybe requiring, or encouraging calls for, a national recount all the time: rewarding all a state’s EC votes, after the fact, to the winner of the national vote count.

    So, it looks as though we’ll have to follow a state-by-state change in allocating EC votes. That can be done. It could even be done bipartisanly, if people come up with the right illustrative theoretical examples. The Trump minority-vote win is outrageous, and the GOP has to recognize that it’s only because of the Founders’ wish to avoid a popular ballot that he did.

    We can, and must, fix that.

    • Submitted by Ray Schoch on 12/19/2016 - 07:31 pm.

      And yet…

      “Some of us are really tired of Democratic candidates for President winning the national vote count but “losing” the election because of the Electoral College, which was invented in late 18th century America to preclude the results of the vote by an ignorant and emotional public.”

      I’m among those who are tired of this outcome, but isn’t it ironic that the system devised by the Founders to “…preclude the results of the vote by an ignorant and emotional public… is essentially what enabled Mr. Trump to win the presidency? There are plenty of fact-free voters on both sides, but I’d argue that Trump’s appeal is/was the antithesis of reasonable and rational. Demagogues don’t want their supporters to think, they want them to feel, and that’s what Trump’s campaign was all about: emotion over reason.

    • Submitted by Bob Petersen on 12/21/2016 - 12:14 pm.

      Too Presumptuous

      The problem with your argument is that we don’t know for sure if Clinton would have won if it went by CD. Trump won many CDs in states that went to Hilary. And now with the votes showing that CA and NY went to Clinton overwhelmingly by 6 million. Now the argument for the Electoral College becomes even more strong because two states should not decide the election.

      • Submitted by Luke Soiseth on 12/21/2016 - 09:30 pm.

        That’s interesting

        Because while at some level I hate the idea of two states deciding an election, why shouldn’t the plurality decide (each of us equally represented)? And then we can all have a “duh” moment when we say aloud that yes that will put extra votes where there are more voters clustered together (towns, cities, suburbs) – each voter with one vote whether they live in a high-rise or a yurt. It seems right from a democracy standpoint and we are free to move about in the 50 states if we feel left behind. Then we just need to make sure the government works efficiently in the service of every voter.

        There’s been a lot of talk about young people checking out of politics, and it’s hard not to see why with the embarrassment of an election we just witnessed, and not the least of which is hearing that one candidate won 2.8 million more votes than the other, but still lost. That’s winning by about 2% and they’re smart enough to know that would mean actually winning just about every other contest that exists in the world. And it’s not all that hard to hear the real motivations behind the arguments for or against either. Imagine if this was the first election you were eligible to vote in. Good lord.

        The real issue though is the decimation of the rural areas. Jobs are gone and they are not “coming back”. There are a host of reasons ranging from tireless robots and companies simply not wanting to set up shop far outside the much more convenient, lively urban areas with more customers, more job candidates, airports and the like, to immigration (to some degree) and the fact that many young people are fleeing the country to the cities not only because that is where the job opportunities are, but because they want to live there. Unless someone can come up with a way to create successful stable communities (or reinvigorate those that once were) up against all those odds, the downward spiral will continue for those unable to pick up and start new elsewhere, those that can must admit that Santa Jobs is not coming and go find him, and the more powerful will probably also continue to take advantage of each and every one of them.

  6. Submitted by Pat Terry on 12/19/2016 - 12:27 pm.

    Clinton had 2.86 million more votes

    And more than a 2 percent margin.

    This is what the founding fathers intended, but it doesn’t make it right. In essence, the value of your vote depends on where you live. In some states, your vote counts more than others. There is no valid reason for that.

    • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 12/19/2016 - 04:34 pm.


      With modern communications technology, there is no reason not to elect people to national offices with a national ballot.

    • Submitted by Frank Phelan on 12/19/2016 - 06:38 pm.

      Whoa Whoa Whoa!

      Are you saying that the founders intended for the loser of the popular vote to win the EC? Based on what do you say this?

      As Mr. Black said, they didn’t even specify that states needed to hold an election to determine the will of the people (at least those who were white, male and owned land.)

    • Submitted by John Appelen on 12/20/2016 - 08:09 am.

      Actually there is a very valid reason for that. We are a Republic of States that are United, not a national democracy like Germany, France, etc. Our model is closer to the European Union. Therefore it is important we value not only the popular vote, but also the vote by region.

      The alternative could be very destabilizing for our country. Politicians only serving the urban centers, rural areas / States feeling ignored and powerless. That could lead somewhere very dark.

      I’ll propose a better solution, how about the politicians look for solutions that work for all of the citizens and not just their core constituencies?

      • Submitted by Dennis Wagner on 12/24/2016 - 01:04 pm.

        Good one John

        Because that is exactly what we have now: A right wing minority shoving their laws down the throats of a left wing Majority. Please go up a little and note how in an example 38,217,717 California’s vote doesn’t count! I think what we have today is very destabilizing, and based on the other opinions out here, sure am not the only one. Do you like my math?

  7. Submitted by Tim Milner on 12/19/2016 - 01:46 pm.

    Simply adopt Nebraska and Maine’s

    elector vote awarding method across the entire nation. That would make each house district an important and allow voters of similar geographies to have a better say. Then award the “extra” 2 votes to the candidate that wins the popular vote for each state.

    Improves the system multiple times without making any big structural changes in how the voting process works.

    • Submitted by John Appelen on 12/20/2016 - 08:14 am.

      Sounds good, however apparently the States control how the votes are apportioned and neither the Conservative nor Liberal politicians will give up the winner takes all method. I mean in MN Trump would have gotten 4 electoral votes, to Clinton’s 6. That likely would have seemed unacceptable to many here.

  8. Submitted by Robert Franklin on 12/19/2016 - 04:02 pm.

    The Nebraska/Maine problem is

    that dividing electoral votes by congressional districts leaves us at the mercy of Gerrymandering which, we know, is a huge problem in and of itself.

    • Submitted by Cameron Parkhurst on 12/19/2016 - 05:33 pm.


      I want to hear more discussion about what the impact of bringing about an end to Gerrymandering would have on our political discourse. And whether more would be accomplished by our politicians. My sense is that the political discourse would improve and that more would be accomplished. I am confident that better political discussion will be a benefit. However, if the things (legislation, policy) that get accomplished are always a product of compromise, so that there is always a middle of the road solution without much drift, is that truly beneficial?

    • Submitted by Tim Milner on 12/20/2016 - 09:21 am.

      Not so sure that the Gerrymandering

      would increase with electoral votes distributed by Congressional district.

      Right now, the gerrymandering that is taking place has created districts where 70%+ of the voters are in one party. You get that by stealing very select neighborhoods from neighboring counties to create incredibly safe House seats. But in doing that, your support in those surrounding counties is lessened.

      It would be impossible to gerrymander 270 votes. But what I think would happen is that parties would try to draw more district lines that would yield more like a 55% or 60% of the votes to a single party. This would leave more supportive voters in neighboring counties that just might swing another district. There would be some incentive to creating a lot more “leaning blue” or “leaning red” areas to get to 270 than the absolute red and blue we have now.

      So instead if having 5-7 swing states, I could very easily see 40-50 swing Congressional districts. Maybe even more. To me, that would lead to a better campaign and a better election process.

  9. Submitted by Scott Kelley on 12/19/2016 - 10:22 pm.

    Focus on the future of the Party, not the Electoral College

    It’s absolutely astounding to me to read the issues with the Electoral College from national columnists (Dionne among others) and the columns here in MinnPost from Black while the Democratic Party continues its slide in the past decade. Remember when both House and the Senate were controlled by the Democrats? Think how many governorships have switched to Republicans over the last ten years. In addition, count the number of state legislatures now controlled by Republicans that used to be controlled by Democrats (including Minnesota). Trump nearly won the popular vote in Minnesota

    The reasons why the Democratic Party is losing these vital offices are what’s important, not semantics over a race which was legitimately lost by HRC.

    Enough already with the popular vote argument. You play by the rules at the time and those rules showed there were roughly 12 to 13 states in play and Trump won the majority of them by about 800,000 votes. I don’t like Trump either but he won. Continuing to fret over the Electoral College and blaming anything you can for what happened is a waste of time and doesn’t help build the party of the future. We don’t want the Party to become irrelevant but the continued whining and the theoretical discussions over these Electoral College issues drain energy away from understanding and addressing the significant issues the Party must face or become irrelevant.


    • Submitted by Luke Soiseth on 12/22/2016 - 11:41 am.

      Slide, indeed,

      But still the more “popular” party and the one that (we can say) millions more American citizens voted to run our nation. That’s a deadly serious problem, unless you can really argue that it’s not about what we want as a nation, but what those in power want to give us, and that those millions of voters do not count. These people work for us, so we should hire who we want, and we did not do that as a nation. We hired the guy that (let’s say it again) millions fewer American citizens voted for. Sure, it’s the system, but really, if it continues to help one party over another, who could argue it is fair?

  10. Submitted by Ilya Gutman on 12/19/2016 - 10:25 pm.


    I am surprised that people still refer to popular vote results – what difference does it make? What does it show except the fact that Republicans did not go to vote in California because they did not have any reason to (even a senate race was between two Democrats)? Also, if one tortures numbers enough, it may be said that 25 or fewer people in the entire country may elect a president (if one person in each state votes) but so what? Or in a popular vote it may be possible for a dozen states to decide elections… Splitting votes proportionally in the states may be tricky. What if in that example of the state with 10 electoral votes, one candidate gets 35%, one gets 25% and 8 candidates get 5% each?

    • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 12/20/2016 - 09:47 pm.

      You ask ‘what difference does it make’

      if we elect a President who is unacceptable to a majority of the voters?
      A loss of legitimacy of our system of government.
      Some of us do care.

      • Submitted by Ilya Gutman on 12/22/2016 - 07:50 am.

        Not exactly

        First, you don’t know if Trump is unacceptable to a majority of voters because people could have voted for someone other than Trump and still consider Trump acceptable. Second, the popular vote in this case does not show anything since everyone knew from the very beginning that it would not matter so in other than competitive states, a decision to vote or not to vote was not based on presidential election. And third, this has nothing to do with legitimacy just like having lower yardage does not make winning in a football game not legitimate.

        • Submitted by Dennis Wagner on 12/24/2016 - 01:19 pm.

          Yes we do!

          Many of us did listen to all the debates, in our opinion the guy is 100% not qualified to be our president, And those non-qualifying characteristics have been laid bare here numerous times and recently by Mr. Black, Voting is equal right to each qualifying American (supposedly with equal weight) Have no idea what football yardage has to do with the score. I do know the team with the most points win, seems your argument is change football to, something like the team with the most people cheering from certain sections of the stadium should decide the outcome. “Everyone knew from the beginning?” Quite the leap of assumptions.

    • Submitted by Connie Sullivan on 12/21/2016 - 11:31 am.

      We’re trying to discuss how to fix a clear problem.

      Those who would have us ignore the fact that Hillary Clinton won the national popular vote by nearly three million ballots more than Trump received would like us to ignore a major failing of the 18th-century landed-gentry scheme to control and contain presidential voting to an elite: It directly contradicts the one person, one vote principle that underlies our democracy (“republic” conveys the structure of our government, while “democracy” denotes the common citizenry electing officials).

      We talk about this because Hillary Clinton, in the rest of the world that has honest elections, would now be the President-elect of the United States because most of us voted for her, not Trump. She had a margin of nearly three million votes!

      We talk about this because we cannot continue to accept an invalid denial of voting power to people just because they live in cities or populous states.

      We talk about this because a democratic system does not have an autocrat at the top who tries to shut people up when they have a different view of things (Trump and his supporters are the ones trying to shut people up, especially the opposition press). I’m always leery of commenters who try to close a discussion.

      We talk about this because in our country most of us still believe that by talking out an issue together, exchanging views with each other, we can come to a better plan, for a better and fairer future. We believe in our country and we regard ourselves as participants, not subordinates or “subjects.”

      And we believe that the candidate who gets the most votes should win our presidency.

      • Submitted by Ilya Gutman on 12/22/2016 - 07:51 am.

        A question

        Imagine that Clinton won Electoral College and lost popular vote. Would you complain then and call her win illegitimate and elections dishonest? As for shutting people up, I recommend you stop on any college campus (or read about that) and see for yourself how Trump’s supporters are being shut up. Yes, let’s talk about issues together!

  11. Submitted by Howard Miller on 12/21/2016 - 04:45 pm.

    ironic in retrospect …

    … only 2 Trump-pledged electors bailed on him, while 7 of Hillary’s did. Every time we found reason to pronounce Trump wanting, Hillary’s negatives returned the favor in spades.

    Maybe next time Democrats will nominate someone not detested by a majority of voters. That works for Republicans, not Democrats. Clearly

  12. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 12/22/2016 - 09:28 am.

    Maybe but…

    More importantly democratic candidates are getting more and more lackluster and incapable of winning elections by wide enough margins to take office. The party has completely lost it ability to put winning candidates on the ballot, and the decision to turn a liberal party into a mediocre conservative party has moved us incrementally towards a Trump presidency.

    You can blame the electoral college if you want, but I remind you that guys like Nate Silver were telling us the day before the election that despite a virtual tie in the polls (Clinton never did open up more than low single digit lead over Trump) Clinton had 90% chance of winning precisely BECAUSE of the electoral college which was supposed to be her firewall.

    We can whine about the electoral college or we can start putting popular candidates on the ballot that will win elections decisively by wide margins. Trump did everything a candidate could do to lose this election and none of the other republican candidates were much better; beating them is completely doable if you’re willing to nominate a liberal candidate with a popular agenda.

    • Submitted by John Appelen on 12/22/2016 - 09:06 pm.


      Please remember that I wanted to vote for Hillary, since I disliked Trump that much… I just could not do it because her platform shifted SO FAR left… Do you really think someone even further Left can win in the center of America?

      Please remember that she was already Left of center and she moved even further to placate the Bernie voters.

      I mean I hope the Democratic Party keeps trying to go that far left, it will make the GOP job much easier.

  13. Submitted by Connie Sullivan on 12/23/2016 - 02:49 pm.

    It’s not the Democratic Party that has to self-examine in some existential cramp. Hillary lost the electoral college tally in part because she was a woman (rural Minnesota women, for example, saying to each other: “This is just not a job a woman should hold.”). Her margins in swing states were tiny (look at Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Ohio–she lost in all of those states together by a sum of less than 100,000 votes!). And it did matter that James Comey of the FBI intervened at the last minute, in contradiction of long-standing precedent that close to election day, and the Russian hacking also mattered, a lot. The whole Big Lie that there was anything wrong with her email server use played a huge part. In other words, it wasn’t Democratic ideology that lost.

    And let’s not forget Obama, people!! He won two elections straight out, both in popular vote and electoral college totals, in 2012 by a really large amount. Obama is a Democrat. So we shouldn’t have to get in a fetal position about Hillary’s loss meaning Democrats have to re-assess what Democrats are. We know who we are (most of those who vote in the U.S.). What we have to do is find a way to get the black American voters out for Democrats–they and disgruntled Bernie supporters lost the election for Clinton by not voting or not voting for Clinton.

    • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 12/24/2016 - 11:54 am.


      Clinton lost the election because she was a truly awful candidate that rank and file democrats insisted on nominating despite all common sense. Her defeat was predicable and it was predicted. She brought a whole host of insurmountable liabilities to the table ranging from abysmal trust and popularity to foreign policy fiasco’s like the Iraq War vote. If the party fails to recognize and accept the huge mistake it was to put Hillary on the ballot they’ll just blow it again by selecting lame leadership and another lame candidate in three years.

      I’ve seen this before and it’s a unique democrat phenomena: Those who delivered the most spectacular political defeat in recent US history by selecting the losing candidate will now expect us all to defer to their judgement and political “expertise”. Those of us who predicted, this, warned about it, and were marginalized as naive dreamers, sexists, and radicals are expected to recognize the superior wisdom of those responsible for this epic fail. That’s not how credibility works yet its frequently the choice of the democratic elite and many in the rank and file.

      As for black voters another huge lesson of this election cycle is that the neo-liberal/triangulating identity politics that Clinton Champions is a defunct strategy. None of the groups that were supposed be Hillary’s “firewall” came through because Clinton just could not connect with them as a moderate champion of a status quo that’s not working for most Americans. She couldn’t overcome their dislike and distrust which was always expressed at any opportunity.

      In the end democrats didn’t even try to recognize or address any of Clinton’s huge liabilities, they just assumed voters would over-look them given Trump as an alternative. This may have been the single most spectacular act of political suicide in US history. And make no mistake, democrats WILL do it again in three years if we let them.

  14. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 12/24/2016 - 12:00 pm.


    We have far more immediate problems. If democrats wanted do something about the EC they should have put it on the table after Gore lost to Bush in 2000. Nothing’s going to happen now at any time in the foreseeable future so quit whining about the EC and start working on winning the next election cycle. Democrats can win, they just can’t win with crappy candidates like Clinton, so instead of crying about the EC start selecting populist candidates with agenda’s and policies that people want to vote for… win elections rather whine about losing them and blaming someone else.

  15. Submitted by Tom Stromie on 12/25/2016 - 01:11 pm.

    Path to victory

    One thing that is conveniently overlooked is that everyone knew what it would take to win the election – 270 or more electoral votes.Football games are not decided by time of possession and basketball games are not decided on the number of rebounds recovered.

    The other thing is that Clinton spent much less time in many of the swing states than Trump and was absent from the campaign trail for almost a month following the last debate. Clinton might has won had she been interested in votes from anyone other that urbanites and celebrities.

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