Under “Ranked Choice Voting” Trump might have won the popular vote in 2016


October, 2018

If we had used Ranked Choice Voting in the 2016 presidential election Donald Trump might have won the popular vote as well as the Electoral College. My friends are shocked when I tell them that even so I am in favor of using Ranked Choice in presidential elections– if it is combined with proportional allocation of Electors, neither of which requires a Constitutional Amendment.

The indirect Electoral College system we use to elect presidents is usually opposed by liberals like me who think of ourselves as small “d” democrats. It subordinates the national popular vote to subsidize states with less population, where Republicans often dominate, because it gives every state Electors equal to the total of its Congressional Representatives and (two) Senators. The District of Columbia gets another three — 538 in total.

All Electors are awarded to the presidential candidate with the highest vote total, even if they received well under half of the total votes cast. This means that presidents usually get elected with less than half of the popular vote, even if they lose the popular vote, as Trump did – and Bush before him.

What I believe we should do instead would be to allocate Electors proportionately, using a modified Ranked Choice. Every voter would put a “1” next to their first choice, and a “2” next to their second. All of the “1” votes in a state would be counted, just as they are today, but the count wouldn’t end there.

The top two candidates would be selected and given all the “2” votes cast for them by those whose “1” vote went to a minor candidate. Then, the total electoral votes for the state would be awarded proportionately to each of them.

Let’s see how that might have worked in 2016. Hillary Clinton got 48.2% of the national popular vote and Donald Trump got 46.1 %. Minority candidates got the rest, almost 6%. Counting these “1” votes state-by-state and awarding the electoral votes proportionately, I calculate that Clinton would have gotten 253.6 and Trump 250.3. Minority candidates would have received the remaining 34.1.

At this point we would select the two leaders (Clinton and Trump) and rule out the rest. Then we would count the “2” votes for the minority candidates. In 2016, only two candidates appeared on nearly all of the state ballots. Gary Johnson of the Libertarian Party would have won 17.8 Electors in the proportional state-by-state count. Dr. Jill Stein of the Green Party, 6.1.

Since we didn’t use ranked choice in 2016, we don’t know for sure who would have received the “2” votes, but it’s fair to speculate that Trump would have won all, or almost all, of the Johnson votes while Clinton would have won all of Dr. Stein’s votes. Assuming the remaining minority candidates (most of whom appeared on only a few state ballots) split their “2” votes, Trump would have won 50.2% of the popular vote (and 271 electoral votes) to Hillary’s 49.8%.

In this system the winner gets more than half of the popular vote, and every vote counts. This should encourage Democrats in red states and Republicans in blue states to get out and vote. Another is that it allows one to vote for a minority party candidate to make a statement and still get to express an opinion on the leading candidates. No more “spoilers.”

Finally, and maybe most important, this system does a much better job of reflecting the will of the people without removing the voting subsidy for smaller, redder states.

Please follow and like us:

Leave a Reply