November 14, 2016
It happened five times in U.S. Presidential Election history. Because of the antiquated system created by the founders, the winner of the popular vote, lost the presidency to the candidate with most Electoral votes.
The latest in this circle of misfortune is Hillary Clinton and her supporters, who must now deal with the loss to Trump, a candidate most Americans did not want as President, according to the popular vote results. Since its inception, the Electoral College has been a matter of controversy, while some have tagged it as a rigged system that fails to represent interests of the population.
The system as mandated is a constitutionally approved institution that officially elects the President and Vice President of the United State. Though, the Electoral College is criticized for being undemocratic, for giving much importance to the swing states over the rest of the nation, it has survived to date despite fierce opposition from those who feel the popular vote should matter.
To supporters of the Electoral System, it is a distinguishing feature of federalism, which helps protect the rights of smaller and less influential states from encroachment by the bigger and more powerful states, in terms of both economic and political influence. However, there is overwhelming support for ditching the archaic system that no longer satisfies the needs of a 21st Century America.
A careful look at U.S. Presidential Election history, reveals the five candidates that lost the Presidency due to the Electoral College, won the popular vote and ironically, all belong to the Democratic Party.
Samuel Jones Tilden was the Democratic candidate for the U.S. Presidency in the disputed election of 1876. Tilden won the Popular Vote majority, but ultimately denied victory because of the Electoral College. He later conceded to Republican Rutherford B. Hayes, after Southern Democrats got the promise of an end to the Reconstruction, following the American Civil war.
In 1824, two candidates Andrew Jackson and John Quincy Adams campaigned for President of the United States. After no candidate secured a majority of the Electoral Vote, the House of Representatives decided the election. Andrew Jackson a Democrat lost to Quincy Adams, a Republican. It was the only Presidential Election where the candidate who received a plurality of both the Popular and Electoral votes (Andrew Jackson) did not become President, making him to proclaim the election as a “corrupt bargain.”
Grover Cleveland, the incumbent President and a Democrat, tried to secure a second term against the Republican nominee Benjamin Harrison, in 1888. Even though, he won a plurality of the Popular Vote by a narrow margin, Cleveland lost re-election in the Electoral College to Harrison, who swept almost the entire north and Midwest to achieve majority of the Electoral Vote that gave him the Presidency.
In the 2000 Presidential Election considered one of the closest races in history, Al Gore a Democrat, won the Popular Vote but lost in the Electoral College to Republican George W. Bush. A dispute over a vote recount in Florida came before the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled 5-4 in favor of Bush, denying Gore the Presidency.
The latest is the Election of 2016 where Donald J. Trump a Republican, became the President by winning the Electoral vote 290-228, despite losing the Popular vote to the Democratic nominee Hillary Rodham Clinton. Majority of Clinton’ followers are in shock at the outcome of the election, since all polls before the election had her at the top.
The outrage over the 2016 Election has reopened debates over the Electoral system. Majority of Americans who feel disenfranchised, are now calling for the superannuated system to be dumped, since it does not represent popular wish in choosing the President.
One strong argument against it is that it renders a large swath of votes in non-swing states irrelevant, while defenders of the current system say that a decision by popular vote would shift candidates’ focus from the rural areas. They say the Electoral College preserves the nation’ Federal character. But, should America keep the system even though, it does not represent the wish of a general population?
Adeyemi Oshunrinade [E. JD] is an expert in general law, foreign relations and the United Nations. He is the author of ‘Wills Law and Contests,’ ‘Constitutional Law-First Amendment,’ ‘Criminal Law-Homicide’ and ‘SAVING LOVE’ available on Amazon. Follow on Twitter @san0670.