America’s quirky electoral system could benefit Trump again

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In the 2016 election, Donald Trump received a 3.2 million votes less that his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton, despite which the Republican candidate won the victory by grabbing more votes in the Electoral College. Four years later, history could repeat itself.

Thousands of drills The computerized elections carried out at Columbia University indicate that, if the so-called popular vote (the total number of votes each candidate receives) ends up being very even, the peculiar Electoral College system that governs the presidential elections in the United States will return to bow down next week in favor of the current tenant of the White House, although somewhat less than in 2016, according to A study published this week in the magazine Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), and collected by Efe.

Those responsible for the report, Robert Erikson, a professor of political science, and Karl Sigman, a professor of industrial engineering, examined the way in which the results of the Electoral College are conditioned by the way in which states voted in previous elections. After analyze the electoral outcomes since 1980, And after thousands of drills, they concluded that Trump will have an advantage in the Electoral College over his Democratic rival, former Vice President Joe Biden, if the result is, as expected, tight.

The authors argue that, based on the data from their analysis, the tipping point between a likely Democratic or Republican Electoral College victory is not a 50-50 popular vote, but rather in a range of 51% Democratic vote versus 49% Republican.

Currently, the polls give Biden the leadership with 52.1% of the popular vote, while Trump accumulates 43%, according to the weighted average produced by the specialized website FiveThirtyEight.

Erikson recalls that Trump was successful in the Electoral College due to his victory by very narrow margins in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania, but that there are other states, such as Arizona, Florida, Georgia and North Carolina, that “could also have weight in 2020.”

The proxy vote

Unlike most other democracies in the world, in the United States the president he is not elected directly from the vote of the citizens. It is not, therefore, the popular vote that determines who will occupy the Oval Office, but the Electoral College, to whose members citizens delegate that function.

This College is made up of 538 delegates or voters – nominated by the parties and distributed in proportion to the population of each state – who, on behalf of the citizens, vote in the 50 states of the country and the District of Columbia (seat of the capital). To be elected, the candidate must have a majority (at least 270) of the votes cast by the Electoral College, and if neither of them succeeds, the decision goes to Congress. Each delegate casts an electoral vote which must be, in principle, for the most voted candidate in the State, except in the cases of Nebraska and Maine, where the electoral vote is distributed according to the percentage of the votes obtained.

The candidate who receives the majority of the votes of a State In this way he wins all the votes cast by the electors of that State, and that is why electoral campaigns focus on winning the popular vote in a combination of the states that grant a majority of voters, rather than on getting the largest number of votes at the national level.

Citizen mandate

The consequence of this system is that when a person casts his vote for a presidential candidate in the United States, what he is really doing is ask the delegates of your State to vote for your candidate in the Electoral College, something that is taken for granted, as it is understood as a citizen mandate. The delegates are considered people loyal to the party, and in some states their names even appear on the ballot alongside those of the candidate for president and vice president.

The election campaign between Trump and Biden.

In fact, history records only a handful of cases (in 1948, 1956, 1960, 1968, 1972, 1976 and 1988) in which a voter he refused to support the candidate he had committed to (in 2000 there was a blank vote), and only once in which the Electoral College did not vote for the winner, when, in 1836, the body denied Richard Mentor Johnson the votes necessary to be appointed vice president. In 2016, there were seven delegates who stood out in the vote for the president and six who did so in the vice president.

Precedents

Trump’s victory in 2016 despite having obtained fewer votes (46.15% versus 48.17% for Clinton) It is not the only case in the history of American democracy in which the most voted candidate was defeated. In 1825, neither John Quincy Adams ni Andrew Jackson they obtained the majority of the electoral votes and finally the House of Representatives elected Adams president, despite the fact that Jackson had received more popular votes.

Donald Trump and Joe Biden, with and without masks at two rallies.

In 1876 Rutherford B. Hayes won the almost unanimous support of the small states and was elected president, despite the fact that Samuel J. Tilden had won 264,000 more votes, and in 1888 Benjamin Harrison He prevailed against his rival, Grover Cleveland, which had had more votes.

Already in 2000, George W. Bush was elected with 271 electoral votes after being awarded the Florida delegates -by only 573 votes- after the contesting the result and recount, although Al Gore had won nearly 450,000 more popular votes across the country.

An unfair system?

The Electoral College was created by the representatives of the States that made up the republic, before the majority of the population could vote, and with the aim of avoiding domination of the most populated areas of the country. The authors of the Columbia University study note that “it is often seen as an unfair institution that can deny the presidency to the winner of the popular vote, a circumstance sometimes referred to as a electoral ‘investment’. “

Citizens queue up in New York to vote early in the US presidential elections.

Erikson and Sigman add that there are those who argue that “the Electoral College favors small states, since their quotas always include two extra votes that represent the two senators that each State elects regardless of its population. “

Others, however, “opine that favoritism leans towards the most populated states, since the winner takes all the representatives, which gives them enormous power. “California, for example, with 39.5 million inhabitants, has 55 electoral votes (delegates); Montana, with close to one million, has 3 .

As Jeremy Mayer, associate professor of Politics and Government at George Mason University, explains to Europa Press, the system was devised in this way to “avoid having a regional president, for example from the south, which could provoke a new war “.

The expert emphasizes that, taking into account that it “benefits the smallest states”, it seems unlikely that they will agree to support a reform, something for which it would be necessary amend the constitution, with the backing of two-thirds of Congress and three-quarters of the 50 states.

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