According to Snopes, as of yesterday (November 13) Clinton is currently ahead of Trump by about 630,000 votes, and it looks likely that number will increase as the ballots continue to be counted. This situation has lead to familiar calls to end the electoral college, and already I’ve seen plenty of angry posts from HRC supporters feeling they’ve been robbed. So a few points here:
1. At least as of now, statistically Trump and Clinton are actually tied.
So far, about 121M people voted for either Trump or Clinton. Previous research has suggested the error rate for uncounted votes in a presidential election is roughly between 1.1% – 2.0% (here’s the study and its tables). If those numbers hold, one of the candidates would need to beat the other by somewhere between 1.3M – 2.4M votes for it to be statistically significant. At least as of now, Clinton falls short of that, meaning the difference between them is in the margin of error. They’re tied.
2. Even if Clinton ends up above the margin of error, it doesn’t mean the electoral college has robbed anyone.
Politicians campaign and people vote with the electoral college in mind. Think of how many times you heard people discuss how everyone in swing states ought to vote, whereas if you were in a solid red or blue state, people didn’t care as much. Why? Because they knew how the electoral college works. Party hardliners were relatively forgiving of third party votes in the states already decided. I live in California, and no one seemed very worried about third party votes here. We all assumed (correctly) that Clinton would get all of California’s electoral votes either way. But if you went third party in Florida this year? Apparently the end of the world might be a bit your fault.
If the electoral college hadn’t existed, you don’t know how people would’ve voted differently. How many more conservatives would have bothered to vote in California? How many more liberals would have showed up in Alabama?
The same goes for the way the politicians campaign. They choose which states to pour their ads into, to get people on the ground, to hit hard, based on their knowledge of the electoral college–and those processes greatly influence people’s votes.
If the electoral college didn’t exist, campaigning and voting would have looked different, and we don’t know how different. We don’t know how the landscape would have changed, and so we don’t know which candidate would have received the “mandate” from the American people.
So it’s possible HRC will end up above the margin of error. And it’s possible if she does that would happen to represent what Americans would have wanted if they had voting absent an electoral college. It’s also possible it would have looked completely different. Especially when considering how unprecedented this election was and how surprised so many of us were by the results, it’s pretty hard to predict. It’s certainly not clear that the electoral college foiled the (overall) will of the people.