The electoral college is an excellent system

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tags: election 2016, Electoral College, Trump



George F. Will writes a twice-weekly column on politics and domestic and foreign affairs. He began his column with The Post in 1974, and he received the Pulitzer Prize for Commentary in 1977. He is also a contributor to FOX News’ daytime and primetime programming.  Follow @georgewill

Political mildness is scarce nowadays, so it has been pleasantly surprising that post-election denunciations of the electoral college have been tepid. This, even though the winner of the presidential election lost the popular vote by perhaps 2.8 million votes, more than five times the 537,179 votes by which Al Gore outpolled George W. Bush in 2000. 

In California, where Democrats effortlessly harvest 55 electoral votes (more than one-fifth of 270), this year’s presidential winner was never in doubt. There was no gubernatorial election to excite voters. And thanks to a “reform,” whereby the top two finishers in a multi-party primary face off in the general election, the contest for the U.S. Senate seat was between two Democratsrepresenting faintly variant flavors of liberalism. These factors depressed turnout in the state with one-eighth of the nation’s population. If there had been more excitement, increased turnout in this heavily Democratic state might have pushed Hillary Clinton’s nationwide popular vote margin over 3 million. And this still would not really matter.

Political hypochondriacs say, with more indignation than precision, that the nation’s 58th presidential election was the fifth in which the winner lost the popular vote. In 1824, however, before the emergence of the party system, none of the four candidates received a majority of the electoral votes, and the House of Representatives chose John Quincy Adams even though Andrew Jackson won more popular votes — 38,149 more, although only about 350,000 of the approximately 4 million white males eligible to vote did so. All four candidates had been together on the ballots in only six of the 24 states, and another six states, including the most populous, New York, had no elections — their legislatures picked the presidential electors. 

In 1876, Rutherford B. Hayes won the electoral vote even though Samuel J. Tilden won 254,694 more of the 8,411,618 popular votes cast. (With 51 percent, Tilden is the only presidential loser to win a majority of the popular vote.) In 1888, Benjamin Harrison won the electoral vote 233 to 168 even though President Grover Cleveland won the popular vote by 89,293 out of 11,395,083 votes cast. In both years, however, exuberant fraud on both sides probably involved more votes than the victory margins. ...




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