You are browsing the archive for popular vote.

by inoljt

What Exactly Was the Popular Vote in 2012?

8:19 pm in Uncategorized by inoljt

I was recently writing a post on how news organizations still haven’t updated their election results. As part of that post, of course, I tried to track down the “real” popular vote. That is, how many votes did President Barack Obama and Governor Mitt Romney actually win, in reality?

Election 2012
I ran into a problem. Apparently nobody knows.Different organizations are reporting different numbers. To find reliable election results, most analysts go to Dave Leip’s Atlas of U.S. Presidential Elections. However, Dave’s numbers differ from those of Wikipedia. Unfortunately, Dave doesn’t provide a source of how he got his numbers. Wikipedia does; it derived its numbers from the Federal Election Commission Report. Ironically, however, Wikipedia’s numbers are actually different from the report’s numbers. Then there is Dave Wasserman, who with great labor added uncounted ballots to the numbers as they were counted. His numbers are slightly different as well. Here’s a table:

Votes Won According to… Barack Obama Mitt Romney
Dave Leip 65,909,451 60,932,176
Dave Wasserman 65,909,191 60,932,015
Huffington Post 65,899,660 60,932,152
Federal Election Commission Report 65,899,660 60,932,152
Wikipedia 65,907,123 60,931,767

The vote counts by private individuals such as Dave Leip are probably the most accurate. Unfortunately, these people don’t say how they got their numbers.

In addition, there is the fact that uncounted ballots are still being discovered and added to the official count. For instance, a stack of ballots was found in New York City in March, after the completion of the Federal Election Commission Report. So the report is probably wrong. Dave Wasserman also has stated that the official certified results in some states are wrong; apparently the states incorrectly added up all the official county numbers.

The best way to find the popular vote is probably to add up individually all the official certifications of the vote by each state, which I may or may not do. Of course, we also have to be aware of the fact that some of these official certifications may be wrong.

We may never actually know how many votes Barack Obama and Mitt Romney won in the 2012 presidential election.


Photo from League of Women Voters of California licensed under Creative Commons

by inoljt

How 2012 Helps Prospects for Reforming the Electoral College

4:07 pm in Uncategorized by inoljt

By: inoljt,

The electoral college is one of the lingering undemocratic parts of American politics. Unlike almost every other country in the world, America elects its presidents not via the popular vote but rather via a strange system of “electoral votes” distributed by states. The good news is that this system generally reflects the popular will. The bad news is that it occasionally fails, as last happened in 2000.

Since then there has been a push to reform the electoral college so that all states cast their electoral votes for the winners of the popular vote. Currently half the states needed to implement the reform have signed on.

The reform is mostly pushed by Democrats. This is because in 2000 the popular vote winner but electoral college loser was the Democratic candidate. As long electoral college reform was only pushed by Democrats, it was likely to fail. It is almost impossible to get enough states to sign on with complete Republican opposition.

In 2012, however, something quite interesting happened. The electoral college helped Obama quite a bit. For the final months of the campaign Obama was often behind in the national polls but still leading in the state Ohio. It was seen as a very conceivable possibility that Obama would lose the popular vote but win the electoral college and remain president because of Ohio. Even after the first presidential debate, Romney led in the popular vote but never in the electoral college.

It should be noted that these polls were wrong; they underestimated Obama nationally and put Ohio as more Democratic than a lot of states (Colorado, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, and Virginia) which ended up more favorable to Obama. But the perception, based on these flawed polls, was what mattered.

So a lot of hard-core Republicans got to see the electoral college really hurting them during the most important campaign of all.

Moreover, the electoral college actually has leaned Democratic for three elections in a row. In 2004 John Kerry was 118,601 votes away in Ohio from becoming president while losing the popular vote. In 2008 John McCain would have had to win the popular vote by 1.7% to win Colorado and become president. In 2012 the votes are still being counted, but it’s very certain that Obama could have lost the popular vote and still remained president.

This is good news for electoral college reform. Hopefully Republicans will not forget how polls showed them leading the popular vote but still behind in the electoral college during October 2012. Republicans now are aware that the electoral college hurts them. It would be in their self-interest to shift to a popular vote.

There are several blue or purple states in which the state Republican Party is fairly strong and has prevented electoral college reform. The hope is that in a few of these states some Republicans will now support a popular vote. It is also possible that Republicans by themselves will enact popular vote bills on their own initiative. Arizona Governor Jan Brewer, for instance, has publicly made supportive statements on a popular vote. Of course this is pure self-interest, since she (like many Republicans) recognizes that the electoral college now hurts Republicans.

But a popularly elected president looks closer than ever. As long as it was only a Democratic initiative, it didn’t look like the popular vote would be enacted. Now, hopefully, some Republicans will also see that the popular vote is both something that helps a Republican presidential candidate and (more importantly for American but probably not Republicans) the right thing to do.