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Sunday, March 05, 2017

Some Thoughts on the 2016 Presidential Election

You may remember that late in the evening on election night, the electoral college vote was 268-Trump, and 215-Clinton. At that juncture, the 5 outstanding states were: (i) Maine (4 electoral votes, which could be split); (ii) New Hampshire (4 electoral votes); (iii) Pennsylvania (20 electoral votes); (iv) Michigan (16 electoral votes); and (v) Minnesota (10 electoral votes). Additionally, 1 unawarded electoral vote for Nebraska remained because only 4 of Nebraska's 5 electoral votes had already been awarded. See CNN, (at 3:45ff); see also PBS, (at 8:13:30ff, with a slightly different configuration of states: 269-Trump, Clinton-218, with Arizona (11), New Hampshire (4), Michigan (16), Wisconsin (10), and Minnesota (10) yet to be called, and if all had gone to Clinton, then a 269-to-269 Clinton-Trump tie). 

At that point, had Clinton carried all the remaining states (including all 4 of Maine’s electoral votes), worth 54 electoral votes, Clinton would have won 269 electoral votes, and had Trump only carried either the remaining 1 unawarded electoral vote in Nebraska (which he, in fact, ultimately won) or a single electoral vote in Maine (which he, in fact, ultimately won), then the final tally would have been an electoral vote tie: 269-to-269 Clinton-Trump tie. A tie would have thrown the election into the House of Representatives,** where Trump would have been (likely) to prevail given the new House's strong Republican configuration (in terms of number of Republican members and in terms of the number of state delegations with a Republican majority). In other words, Trump could have become President without Pennsylvania and without Michigan and without any of Maine's electoral votes. At that juncture, Trump only needed to carry the remaining 1 unawarded electoral vote in Nebraska. 

A 269 to 269 tie would have come about in those circumstances because of the 2 electoral vote bonus awarded to each state. Trump carried 30 states (each bringing a bump of 2 electoral votes), but Clinton only carried 20 states and the District of Columbia. It appears that Republicans go into presidential elections with about a 10 state or 20 electoral vote bonus

**N/B: In the event of an electoral college vote tie (as determined at the general popular election), even faithless Trump electors would not have cost Trump the presidency unless those faithless Trump electors would have switched their votes from Trump to Clinton. To prevail in the electoral college, and thereby avoid election by the House, a candidate in the general popular election needs a majority of all electors who were appointed: half (i.e., 269 electors of 538 appointed electors) or a mere plurality of appointed electors will not do. In fact, the two faithless Trump electors voted for Governor Kasich and (former) Congressman Ron Paul. Thus, faithless Trump electors (only) risked transferring the election to the House, where (as explained) Trump was likely to prevail. 


Twitter: ( @SethBTillman ) 

Cite this post: Seth Barrett Tillman, Some Thoughts on the 2016 Presidential Election, New Reform Club (Mar. 5, 2017, 7:39 PM),  

My most recent post: Seth Barrett Tillman, Tillman on Irish Television and Radio, New Reform Club (Feb. 2, 2017, 2:17 PM). [here]


Henry Barth said...

Excellent summation.

dearieme said...

If the point of the two vote bonus is to help the Country Party versus the Court party, then apparently it succeeds.

Rich Rostrom said...

Indeed, half will not do.

In 1836, the Virginia electors abstained in the vote for Vice President. They were Democrats, but refused to vote for Democrat nominee Richard M. Johnson, because Johnson had openly (and therefore scandalously) kept a black woman as his concubine and de facto wife. That left Johnson with 147 electoral votes, exactly half of the total of 294.

Thus no candidate was elected by the Electoral College, and the election devolved on the Senate, which chose Johnson - the only time in U.S. history this procedure was ever followed.

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