By Wendy Dong, Sean MacDonlad, and Ian Stewart
To the surprise of many pollsters, forecasters, and everyday people, Donald Trump wonthe 2016 presidential election, therefore in line to become the 45th president of the United States. Or did he? Recent talk of a recount as well as an electoral college initiative has given hope to those who were less than pleased with Trump’s victory.
So how does the electoral college even work? The founding fathers established theelectoral college as middle ground to settle differing federal, state, and citizen interests. Eachstate is given as many electors as it has Representatives and Senators in Congress, and D.C.gets three electors. There are 538 electors in the Electoral College, and at least 270 electoral votes are required to elect the president.
Each state has its own group of electors for each of the candidates running for President, and these electors are selected by the political parties in each state. Therefore, whenyou go to the polls to vote for a candidate, you are technically voting for the electors who aregoing to cast their ballots for a candidate in the Electoral College. Every state follows the“winner-takes-all” system in which the state’s electors are all awarded to the candidate that received the most votes in that state, except Maine and Nebraska, which follow a “proportional representation” or “congressional district” system.
With Clinton having won the popular vote by a large margin (surpassing 2 million by the latest tally), many of her supporters are saying it’s time for the electoral college to get abolished, arguing that the very point of the system was to avoid radical candidates elected by an uninformed public and it has done the exact opposite with Trump. However, as much talk asthere is, the odds of anything about the system changing in the near future are slim. The simplest way to change the system would be to amend the constitution, but given that ¾ of state legislatures would need to pass it and more than half of states went for Trump, that option is offthe table (especially now with Republican majorities in Congress, where ⅔ of each house needsto support the amendment).
Another way that is less simple but slightly more possible (yet still very unlikely) would be if states on their own decided to award their electoral votes to the winner of the national popular vote rather than their own state vote. Again, however, states that supported Trump and helped him win despite his losing the national popular vote have no incentive to switch to this system,and it doesn’t work unless every state is on it.
A third method gradually getting implemented in some states is ranked choice voting. Though this wouldn’t completely nullify the electoral college, it would help prevent third party candidates from messing with vote shares of the two major candidates, something that many cite as one of the reasons Clinton lost. So although the electoral college will remain intact,states may adapt to change the methods they use to assign their electoral votes.
As far as a recount is concerned, initially, Jill Stein was the one calling for a recount ofthe votes in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania. She has made claims that Russia hacked US voting machines to change the outcome of the election. The Green Party has raised $5,000,000 out of $7,000,000 to fund the recount.
The Obama administration has come out in support of the results stating: “Nevertheless,we stand behind our election results, which accurately reflect the will of the American people,”The Clinton campaign was initially averse to the idea of a recount, which may relate to her earlier rhetoric claiming that Trump needed to accept the election results as legitimate.However, recently, Clinton campaign officials have stated that the Clinton campaign will take part in a recount due to “claims of abnormalities and irregularities.” The Clinton campaign argues that they are requesting a necessary service for the 64 million people that voted for Hillary.
Election lawyers and computer scientists in support of Clinton requesting a recount cite issues such as more votes cast than registered voters in certain Wisconsin counties as grounds for there count. Another issue cited is the 85,000 blank votes for the presidential race in Michigan. In Minnesota in 2008, Senator Al Franken won on a recount of paper ballots, so anything is possible. If a discrepancy is found in the early recount, then the door is opened to a full investigation. This can wind up in the Supreme Court with a very awkward situation with a 4-4court.