Next President Could Win The Electoral College And Lose The Popular Vote by 6%

Darren.Woon

The modern Electoral College doesn't fulfill the same duties it was tasked with when the framers wrote the Constitution.

A Democrat could potentially win the popular vote by as much as 6 percentage points and still lose the Electoral College to a Republican in 2020, according to Vox.

The choice of a president, Alexander Hamilton argued in the Federalist Papers, “should be made by men most capable of analyzing the qualities adapted to the station.” This process, Hamilton said, “affords a moral certainty” that “the office of President will never fall to the lot of any man who is not in an eminent degree endowed with the requisite qualification.”

Yet, the modern Electoral College is comprised of partisan loyalists, rather than “men most capable of analyzing” who is best fit for president. The Electoral College is selected by their party to automatically vote for whoever the party nominates to be president. 

This system has allowed five men who lost the popular vote to become president: Trump, George W. Bush, Benjamin Harrison, Rutherford B. Hayes, and John Quincy Adams. 

A recent study by researchers at the University of Texas found that “a 3.0 point margin favoring the Democrat (i.e., 48.5% Republican vote share, or a gap of about 4 million votes by 2016 turnout) is associated with a 16% inversion probability.”

In simpler terms, a Democrat could win the popular vote by as much as 6 percent, but lose the presidency to a Republican because of the Electoral College. 

The Electoral College is the reason why candidates focus so much on a handful of swing states like Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, or Michigan, while solid red and blue states are, for the most part, ignored. 

There are two contending theories for why the Electoral College really exists. 

Harvard historian Jill Lepore argues that it exists as “a compromise over slavery.” This theory looks to the Three-Fifths Compromise, which allowed slave states to count each slave living within their borders to count as three-fifths of a person in determining how many representatives those states would receive in the House.

Another theory, offered by political scientist Josep Colomer at the Monkey Cage, is that the framers expected the Electoral College to narrow down the list of potential presidential candidates, rather than directly choosing a singular candidate.

Under the Constitution, if no candidate received a majority, the House would choose the president from among the five candidates who received the most votes.

According to Colomer, “delegates in Philadelphia expected states would put forward a variety of candidates; none would win a national majority in the electoral college; and the election would typically pass to the House of Representatives.” The framers did not consider “candidates to emerge and run nationwide.”

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