A bizarre election ends with a bizarre Electoral College tally

Updated
On Election Day, Donald Trump earned 306 electoral votes to Hillary Clinton’s 232, but because 2016 is 2016, it just couldn’t be that simple when members of the Electoral College cast their ballots.
[S]ome electors did break with how their state voted, albeit in unexpected ways. In Washington, a state Clinton won by 16 points, the former secretary of state received just eight of the state’s 12 electoral votes. Colin Powell received three votes and Native American tribal leader Faith Spotted Eagle received one as part of an effort to promote a candidate other than Trump.

An elector in both Maine and Minnesota attempted to cast a ballot for Bernie Sanders, who unsuccessfully challenged Clinton in the Democratic primary. However state laws requiring electors to follow the statewide vote invalidated both efforts.
In all, five electors who were supposed to support the Democratic ticket ended up breaking ranks – one backed an independent senator, three supported a Republican from George W. Bush’s cabinet, and one voted for a Native American activist – while two Republican electors also bucked the GOP ticket, leaving Ohio Gov. John Kasich and former Rep. Ron Paul with one vote each.

Seven different people ended up receiving electoral votes – five of whom didn’t earn them – which is the most in the United States since 1796. Similarly, there were seven “faithless electors,” which is the most Americans have seen since the 1800s.

The fact that the process unfolded like this seems oddly appropriate – a ridiculous year probably deserved a ridiculous capstone – but yesterday’s Electoral College tally didn’t do our democratic system any favors. We’re left with an election for the nation’s highest office in which Americans backed one candidate with more votes, only to have her lose, only to have an additional step in which a small group of voters, largely unknown to the nation, dabbled in constitutional mischief because they felt like it.

The point is not that yesterday’s shenanigans affected the outcome; they clearly did not. But if the American public was looking for some kind of reassurance about the integrity and reliability of our system and the strength of its institutions, yesterday’s Electoral College vote did largely the opposite. Andrew Prokop added that the final tallies “further spotlight the glaring weaknesses in our country’s bizarre, anachronistic Electoral College system that have long been evident.”

Making matters slightly worse, Donald Trump’s transition team issued a written statement responding to the outcome. It’s one of those statements that required some annotating:

“Today marks a historic electoral landslide victory in our nation’s democracy [1]. I thank the American people for their overwhelming vote to elect me as their next President of the United States [2]. The official votes cast by the Electoral College exceeded the 270 required to secure the presidency by a very large margin [3], far greater than ever anticipated by the media [4]. This election represents a movement that millions of hard working men and women all across the country stood behind and made possible. With this historic step we can look forward to the bright future ahead. I will work hard to unite our country and be the President of all Americans. Together, we will make America great again.”

[1] That’s a poorly worded sentence, which doesn’t make factual sense. By every relevant metric, Trump’s totals were some of the narrowest in American history and he lost the popular vote by nearly 3 million votes. To describe his victory as a “landslide” is to insult Americans’ intelligence and strips the word of any real meaning.

[2] Americans were given a choice between two major-party candidates, and Trump came in second.

[3] “Very large” is subjective, but again, Trump’s margin was historically quite small and underwhelming.

[4] And greater than anticipated by Donald Trump and top members of his team, all of whom expected to lose.

The Electoral College votes will be formally certified by Congress on Jan. 6. Vice President Biden will preside over the proceedings, and I have a hunch he won’t enjoy himself.


Donald Trump, Electoral College and Hillary Clinton

A bizarre election ends with a bizarre Electoral College tally

Updated