Letter: Winning the popular vote doesn’t snag the presidency

Many people may be surprised to read that Hillary Clinton received more than a million votes more than Donald Trump in the US election, but still lost the presidency to him.

This is because of the strange US electoral system, whereby the president is elected by the electoral college in each state and not the popular vote.

Whoever wins the electoral college vote in each state gets all the electoral college votes for that state. Clinton in fact won the popular vote by a much larger number of ballots than anyone in history who did not go on to be inaugurated as president.

Clinton’s popular vote margin over Trump was greater than that of Richard Nixon over Hubert Humphrey in 1968 and that of John Kennedy over Nixon in 1960.

Retiring Democratic senator Barbara Boxer, of California, filed legislation on November 15 to abolish the electoral college in light of the election results.

“The electoral college is an outdated, undemocratic system that does not reflect our modern society and it needs to change immediately. Every American should be guaranteed that their vote counts,” she said.

Trump himself in 2012 described the electoral college “a disaster for democracy”. He still agrees with this, but is not prepared to defer to the will of the people in this instance.

This is the fourth time in US history that a nominee has won the popular vote but lost the electoral college. In 2000 Democrat Al Gore beat Republican George W Bush by 543 816 votes nationally, but Bush won the electoral college and became president.

In 1824 John Quincy Adams lost both the popular vote and electoral college to Andrew Jackson, but because Jackson failed to win the required number of electoral college votes (131) a vote was put to the House of Representatives. Adams won and was inaugurated as president.

In 1888 Republican Benjamin Harrison lost the popular vote to Democrat Grover Cleveland by more than 90 000 votes, but won 233 electoral college votes to Cleveland’s 168 and became president.

In the 1948 South African election the Nats (actually the Reunited National Party) won 70 seats with 401 834 votes compared to the United Party’s 65 seats from 524 230 votes. This was because of the delimitation of seats.

There were far more voters in urban constituencies than in rural areas, which favoured the Nats. It has been calculated that if the urban and rural votes had been of equal value, the UP would have won 80 seats and the Nats and their ally, the Afrikaner Party, only 60.

Check the internet if you would like more details about these voting anomalies.

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