In the 2016 US presidential election, Hillary Clinton received nearly three million more votes than Donald Trump. Nevertheless, Trump became president. Why doesn’t the candidate with the most votes automatically become president in the United States?
The reason lies in the electoral system in the United States. Because in America the president is not elected directly by the people, but by so-called The Electoral College. This takes place 41 days after the official election day. The so-called voters are sent to Washington on this day by the respective states to elect the president.
The number of voters a country has available depends on the number of citizens who live there. Almost 40 million Americans live in California, which is why this state has 55 electors. Wyoming, for example, has a population of just under 600,000 and therefore no more than 3 voters.
Does this mean that the big countries are more important?
Yes, in most states, all electoral votes go to only one candidate. He is the candidate who received the most votes in the relevant state. So in the case of California it would be 55 votes. Accordingly, it also does not matter whether the candidate narrowly won the state or – completely fictitious – received 99 percent of the vote. The candidate gets all the votes from the state – according to the winner takes all principle.
How mathematically could someone have fewer votes and become president?
Since all the votes of the electorate go to only one candidate, in practice many of the votes that actually elected the other candidate are lost. For example, it would be sufficient for a candidate to win eleven states by population with only 51% of the vote. Then he’s still president and it no longer depends on how the other 39 states are elected.
When did this electoral system originate?
It goes back to the year 1787 – in the United States Constitution. George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, and Alexander Hamilton, the founding fathers of the constitution, granted only white men of the Protestant religion the right to vote. This was only about 10 percent of the population at the time. But they were not convinced of the level of education and integrity of the citizens. That’s why they built a kind of protective mechanism in the electoral system – this The Electoral College. So that the will of the people does not have at least a direct effect on politics. Meanwhile, much more people in the United States are allowed to vote, but that isn’t happening The Electoral College stayed.
How many times has a candidate become president with fewer votes?
In total, this has happened five times in US history. The last time was in 2016 when Donald Trump was elected president.