5th time can­di­date won most votes, lost

Clin­ton joins Gore in elec­toral his­tory

Baltimore Sun - - TRUMP TRANSITION - By David G. Sav­age

WASH­ING­TON — For only the fifth time in U.S. his­tory, the 2016 pres­i­den­tial cam­paign has ended with an Elec­toral Col­lege win­ner who won fewer votes than his or her op­po­nent.

Un­der the sys­tem es­tab­lished in the Con­sti­tu­tion of 1787, the win­ner is the can­di­date who wins the ma­jor­ity of elec­toral votes based on the state-by-state tal­lies, and that can­di­date is Don­ald Trump.

Hil­lary Clin­ton fin­ished sec­ond, even though she beat him by over 200,000 votes in the pop­u­lar vote.

For Democrats, it makes for a painful re­peat of re­cent his­tory. In 2000, Vice Pres­i­dent Al Gore won 539,000 more votes than Texas Gov. Ge­orge W. Bush, but Bush squeaked out a win in Florida, giv­ing him a ma­jor­ity of the elec­toral votes and the pres­i­dency.

Be­fore that, it hadn’t oc­curred since 1888.

The elec­toral sys­tem is a legacy of a Con­sti­tu­tion writ­ten in 1787 as a com­pact be­tween states, in­clud­ing South­ern states that had more slaves than free men who were el­i­gi­ble to vote.

It was also an era when or­di­nary peo­ple liv­ing far from the hand­ful of cities could not be ex­pected to know lead­ing fig­ures of the time who could serve as the chief ex­ec­u­tive.

“So they de­cided to del­e­gate the de­ci­sion to wise elites. The framers thought they would be a check on dem­a­gogues and the pop­u­lar pas­sions,” said Jef­frey Rosen, pres­i­dent of the Na- Clerks un­seal cer­tifi­cates of re­sults at a meet­ing of the Elec­toral Col­lege, a sys­tem that dates all the way to 1787. tional Con­sti­tu­tion Cen­ter in Philadel­phia. “It seems an­ti­quated, and it didn’t work as they an­tic­i­pated.”

The Con­sti­tu­tion does not use the phrase “elec­toral col­lege.” Rather, it says “Each State shall ap­point … a Num­ber of Elec­tors” that is equal to its rep­re­sen­ta­tion in Con­gress, in­clud­ing its two se­na­tors.

How­ever, by the early 1800s, the state elec­tors were vot­ing as a block in fa­vor of the pres­i­den­tial can­di­date who won the most votes in their state.

Crit­ics of the Elec­toral Col­lege have pointed out how slav­ery played a role in its cre­ation.

South­ern del­e­gates to the Philadel­phia con­ven­tion feared their states could be dom­i­nated by the new fed­eral gov­ern­ment be­cause the North­ern states had more peo­ple and more vot­ers. So they fash­ioned a com­pro­mise that di­vided power based on count­ing the “whole num­ber of free per­sons” in the states as well as “three-fifths of all other per­sons.”

Thanks to this deal, the South­ern states were bol­stered and given more seats in House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives as well as more “elec­tors” who se­lected the pres­i­dent.

Penn­syl­va­nia may have had more free peo­ple and vot­ers than Vir­ginia, but the largest South­ern state had more elec­tors.

“It’s no ac­ci­dent that for 32 of the first 36 years the pres­i­dency was oc­cu­pied by a white, slave-hold­ing Vir­ginian,” said Yale Law Pro­fes­sor Akhil Amar, a critic of the Elec­toral Col­lege.

While the Civil War ended slav­ery and the “three-fifths” deal, the elec­toral sys­tem sur­vived as the method for choos­ing the pres­i­dent, in part be­cause the Con­sti­tu­tion is hard to change. Amend­ments need the ap­proval of two-thirds of the House and Se­nate and three-fourths of the states.

Sup­port­ers of the sys­tem say it en­cour­ages can­di­dates to cam­paign across many states, rather than fo­cus­ing on the huge states like Cal­i­for­nia or Texas.

But in prac­tice, pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates tend to ig­nore states where one party al­ready dom­i­nates, such as Cal­i­for­nia, Texas and New York, and in­stead fo­cus on the half-dozen states that are deemed to be bat­tle­grounds where ei­ther party might pre­vail.

Crit­ics have in­sisted the elec­toral sys­tem vi­o­lates the ba­sic prin­ci­ple that it is vot­ers who elect the pres­i­dent, so the win­ner should be the can­di­date who wins the most votes.

One such critic in 2012 was Trump, who tweeted: “The elec­toral col­lege is a dis­as­ter for democ­racy.”

J. SCOTT APPLEWHITE/AP 2013

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