Pretty much everyone recognizes that the Electoral College is not going to be removed from the Constitution in time for lunch. Or the next election. Or the one after that.
One option: Minnesota is considering a bill to apportion its electoral college votes by congressional district, as Nebraska and Maine already do.
What would happen if all states apportioned votes by congressional district?
Trump still wins.
Using data from the Daily Kos, Trump won 241 congressional districts to Clinton’s 194. (There are 435 congressional districts.)
Clinton also picked up 3 electors by winning the District of Columbia, which doesn’t have representation in Congress, but gets three electoral votes. So, the tally is 241 : 197.
The math whizzes among us recognize that 241 is not 270, the number needed to win. What’s going on here?
The policy wonks among us recognize we also need to count the 100 more electoral votes that represent senators. Each state has two senators, so each state gives two electoral votes to that state’s winner. Trump gets 2 for Florida, Clinton got 2 for California, etc.
Clinton carried 20 states and Trump 30, so 40 more for Clinton, and 60 more for Trump. Therefore, if we had apportioned electoral votes by congressional district, the final total for each candidate would be: Trump 301 and Clinton 237.
301 + 237 = 538. Electoral votes are 435 for Congress, 3 for DC, and 100 for Senators: 538. 538/2 = 269. 270 to win!
Compare that to the election results “as written” — that is, with our current electoral college system, where all but two states (Maine and Nebraska) are winner-take-all. The original electoral college tally (before some faithless electors took away 2 Trump votes and 5 Clinton votes) was 306 : 232. Because seven “faithless electors” changed their vote — 2 did not vote for Trump, and 5 did not vote for Clinton — the “certified” 2016 electoral college vote was 304 for Trump and 227 for Clinton. In short, if we had been apportioning the electoral college votes by congressional district, President Trump would have received 3 fewer electoral college votes and he would still win with a big margin of victory.
But.. There’s More!
Here’s the intriguing part. Almost no one keeps track of presidential races by congressional district. Votes are counted at the county level, and many counties are part of more than one congressional district.
The Daily Kos — no fan of Trump — and a similar group called Polidata, which is partly sponsored by the Republican National Committee — are the only ones out there that have delved into the precinct-level votes and broken them out by district. Who knew?
Their research reveals that changing to congressional district electoral college votes wouldn’t have changed much in this past election, but the Washington Post worries the findings spell trouble ahead for Dems. And it does. Lots of “safe” Dem districts appear to be at risk!
What’s a Clinton supporter to do? Some out there see direct popular vote as the only “real” choice — meaning the choice that presumably would have elected Clinton. But, remember, too, that while Clinton won the popular vote, but she did not win a majority of votes. She got about 48%, Trump 46%, which doesn’t seem nearly as impressive as saying she got “millions” more votes. So…..what do we have, a runoff between the two leading vote-getters?
Another option. Some states are considering bills that would award their electoral votes to whomever wins the national popular vote — a pathway that would have given Clinton the win — and, presumably for other Dems whose futures increasingly depend on heavily populated zip codes — without changing the electoral college. No need for a run-off in this scenario, and pantsuits would be making a comeback!
Well, Minnesota legislators also considered this option. The idea failed 10-6 in committee.
Such a bill might conceivably be adopted in New York, California — even maybe Florida. But states with populations under 10 million are not so full of small-minded small-towners that they don’t realize throwing their electoral votes to a national outcome would be a very bad idea indeed.