Clinton, Trump, and the electoral college

2016-11-16

in Law, Politics

Here’s an irony of the Trump election:

The electoral college was recommended by Alexander Hamilton, who argued in Federalist Paper 68 that: “The process of election 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 qualifications”.

Of course, if the 2016 election had been conducted based on the winner of the popular vote getting the presidency then candidates, parties, and voters would all have behaved differently. You can’t take the results of a game played with one scoring formula, then project that the results would have been the same under different rules. Among other things, under a popular vote system both Democrats and Republicans would have worked harder to turn out the vote in uncompetitive states, and voters would probably have been more willing to cast a ballot in non-swing states. It’s impossible to say whether Trump would have done better or worse than under the electoral college, making the petition to have the electors choose Hilary Clinton instead misguided, at least insofar as they rely on the popular vote outcome as justification.

The “not in an eminent degree endowed” justification may be stronger, but it’s hard to argue that the members of the electoral college (or signers of the petition) are more capable of judging the question legitimately than voters following the system which the U.S. has in place for electing a president.

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

. December 14, 2016 at 8:01 pm

Voters, too, behaved as they did based on the known rules. The popular vote reflects not only true preferences but also strategic voting (or abstention) by people in non-swing states, such as deep-blue California and deep-red Louisiana, who might have done something else in a direct-election scenario.

Take Texas, a red state Trump won by roughly 800,000 votes. His share in heavily Republican suburban counties lagged Mitt Romney’s 2012 performance by an average of eight percentage points; Clinton’s beat Obama’s by four, according to a data analysis by Sean Trende, senior election analyst for RealClearPolitics. Meanwhile, exit polling showed Trump beating Clinton by 13 points in a hypothetical two-way race, as opposed to the nine he won by in real life.

To Trende, this implies a lot of abstention or third-party voting by Republicans who were uncomfortable with Trump but might have swallowed their doubts if Clinton had a better chance to get the state’s 38 electoral votes — or win in a direct national election.

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