This could be some consolation for Hillary Clinton: the majority of Americans actually wanted her to be president. In fact, more American voters picked her ahead of Donald Trump with roughly 98% of all the results collated. It would take a dramatic turn for Trump to overtake Clinton.
Associated Press collation of results shows that Clinton, the Democratic candidate, has so far polled 59,814,018 popular votes while Donald Trump, the Republican flag bearer, scored 59,611,678.
This represents a margin of about 200,000 votes which would have given Clinton the edge were it not for the US “indirect” electoral system which determines the winner by the electoral college and not the popular vote.
Trump has won 279 electoral votes, while Clinton had 228 – and these are the figures that really matter.
Three states are yet to complete vote reporting, but Trump is leading in Arizona and Michigan and Clinton is in control in New Hampshire.
This is purely mathematical: Trump crossed the magical 270 delegate vote count on election night.
After Mitt Romney lost in 2012, Trump had tweeted: “The electoral college is a disaster for a democracy.”
He just turned out to be the biggest beneficiary of the “disaster” since 2000.
Floored in Florida
California, with 55 electoral votes, has the highest number. Alaska, Delaware, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont and Wyoming each has three votes – the lowest. DC is also entitled to three delegate votes.
All American states, except Maine and Nebraska, pledge their electoral votes to the candidates who won the popular votes there.
Data analysis by TheCable suggests that Clinton failed mainly because of the outcomes in Florida and Pennsylvania, two states with a combined figure of 49 electoral votes.
If she had won the popular votes in those states – as President Barack Obama did in 2008 and 2012 – she would have been the president-elect. She would have gained 49 votes and hit the magical 270 figure.
In Pennsylvania, she scored 2,844,705 while Trump got 2,912,941 – a difference of less than 100,000 votes. That meant 20 delegate votes out of her hands.
The Florida margin was slightly wider: she scored 4,485,745 to Trump’s 4,605,515. That was 29 delegates lost.
The final results were not yet in at the time of this report, but the total popular vote tally should favour Clinton as absentee votes trickle in.
Al Gored by Bush
There is somewhat a replay of the 2000 election when George W. Bush, the Republican candidate, lost to Al Gore, the Democratic flag bearer, in the popular vote.
Gore scored 50,996,582 votes, beating Bush who had 50,456,062, but the Republican was elected president based on electoral college votes, garnering 271 to the Democrat’s 266.
Then, there was the little matter of Florida state, where Bush’s brother was governor and where the ballot system seemed “rigged” to favour the Republican.
With 25 electoral votes on offer in the state at the time, it became clear that Florida was going to determine the next American president.
On election night, Bush was credited with 1,784 votes more than Gore, which automatically triggered a recount under the state laws.
The first recount reduced the margin to 537 votes, with Gore going all the way to the US supreme court to trigger another recount amidst reports of several irregularities. The justices voted 4-3 to effectively make Bush president.
What is Electoral College?
Many Nigerian voters cannot understand a system where a candidate wins the popular vote and yet loses the election – but that is a possibility in the indirect voting system.
In 1804, the US presidential electoral system was changed to give power to “electors” – electoral delegates from each state of the federation – under the the Twelfth Amendment (Amendment XII) to the US constitution.
Under the refined system, each state is allocated electoral college votes, and all states except for Maine and Nebraska, choose electors on a “winner-take-all”.
This means a state has all of its electors pledged to the presidential candidate who wins the most votes there.
However, Maine and Nebraska use the “congressional district method”, by which one “elector” is selected within each congressional district by popular vote. The remaining two electors are picked by a statewide popular vote.
The number of “electors” in each state is equal to the number of members of congress the state is entitled to.
Currently, there are currently 538 electors, in accordance with the 435 representatives and 100 senators. The rest are the three from DC.
In the end, the US presidential election is not to elect the president but to elect those who will elect the president.
How would it work in Nigeria?
Although Nigeria adopted its presidential system of government from the US, it chose to pick the president “directly” by popular vote rather than the somewhat complicated electoral college route.
If this were to apply in Nigeria, there would be 469 “electors” based on 109 senators and 360 representatives.
With every state entitled to equal number of senators, every state will have three delegates while FCT will have one.
However, since house of reps is determined by proportion of population, some states will have more than others in total.
Lagos and Kano would each have the highest of 27 electoral votes, and the lowest would be FCT (3), Bayelsa and Nasarawa (both 8).
To be elected president, the candidate would need a minimum of 235 electoral college votes in Nigeria.
But how many Nigerian voters would understand that their candidate had more popular votes than the declared winner – who managed to get the support of only 235 “electors”?