Not voting, protest voting, the Electoral College & a little help from our friends (the Russians: the perfect political storm that determined the 2016 presidential election

by faithgibson on March 17, 2017

How Americans who didn’t vote, or used their vote as a protest against the Washington, DC elite, and the antiquated and undemocratic process of the Electoral College, all fed into the “perfect storm” that ultimately determined the 2016 presidential election

MonkeyLookCameraLens_09bEverything you ever wanted to know about the 2016 election but were afraid to ask  (well almost, but not quite everything).

Election statistics in this post came from the US Election Project, Pew Foundation, PBS-NPR, New York Times, Washington Post, and the Red State website 

If all adult Americans were divided into groups of a 100, each group would have:

  • 73 Americans who did NOT vote for Donald Trump
  • 27 people who voted for Trump; however half (13 out of 27) of those Trump voters later said their vote was actually a protest against the Washington elite
  • 86 out of every 100 voting-age Americans either did NOT vote for Mr. Trump or they cast “protest votes” and did not intend for Mr. Trump to be elected.

Numbers for All Voting-Age Adults:

streetart47-485x650Here is a break-down of the 2016 presidential election based on the voting behavior of all voting-age adults living in the US ** (see section defining “voting age adults” at the bottom of this post)

  • 59% of voting-age American either did NOT vote in 2016 or they were not eligible to vote (see note* below)
  • 19.8% voted for Clinton
  • 19.5% voted for Trump
  • 2% voted for 3rd party candidates

On the evening of November 8th, Pew exit polls asked people who they voted for and why. According to this survey, 51% of Trump voters believed Clinton would win the election and used their votes for Trump as a protest against the status quo.

They described themselves as standing up against the abysmal track records of the “elites” of Washington DC, and/or as a vote of “No Confidence” in the Democratic Party in general, or specifically in a Clinton presidency.

**NOTE: 51% of voting-age American chose not to vote (30% total adult population), either for personal reasons (undecided or disgruntled) or they were actually unable to vote due to personal illness or injury, demands of their family or they could not get off work.

A significant number of registered voters were unable to cast their ballots due to the effects of new voter-suppression laws passed by Republican state legislatures, and a recent ruling by the Supreme Court that nullified the Voters Rights Act of 1964. Many of these voting barriers could be eliminated by having “Vote-by-Mail” systems as the norm for federal elections.

The other 49% (total of 29% of adults in America as defined by the US Election Project) were (a) incarcerated; (b) disenfranchised due to a prior felony conviction; (c) not citizens (*includes green card holders, H1V and other special work visas, as well as undocumented immigrants).

*data on the foreign-born population of the US ~ summary of “Legal Permanent Residents (LPRs) below

” . . .an estimated 13.3 million LPRs lived in the United States on January 1, 2012, and 8.8 million of them were eligible to naturalize. The majority (61 percent) obtained LPR status in 2000 or later.”

Electoral College vs.
Presidential Election by the Popular Vote . . . .


Pretty Birds on a Branch

It seems somehow un-American that the winner of our presidential election was not decided by a majority of the voters. But in the US, the ‘popular’ vote for president only records our individual ‘preferences’ (these are the numbers reported in the media), but our individual votes for president is not what legally determines who will be declared the winner.

What we are actually doing when we check the box next to a candidate’s name is authorizing the people appointed to the Electorial College by that particular candidate’s political party to cast the votes that will determine which of the candidates will be legally declared “President of the United States“.

For better or worse, the presidential election is determined by the 538 members of the Electoral College. The Electoral College is a political process, not a physical place. The number of electors each state is entitled to is equal to the number of members in its Congressional delegation: one for each member of their state’s House of Representatives, plus two for Senators. A majority of 270 electoral votes (one more than 50%) for the same candidate is required to elect the President.

The people who formally and legally decide who will be declared president are nominated by each political party’s state convention or by its central committee. Typically, Electoral College appointees are state-elected officials, party leaders, or people with a strong affiliation (or big campaign contributors) with their party’s candidate for president. The appointed members of the EC all convene on the same day in a predetermined place in each state to cast their EC ballots.

It should be noted that members of the EC are NOT legally required to actually vote for the same presidential candidate that the majority of Americans voted for. Depending on the situation, this open-ended unusual authority could be used ‘corrective’ or as a corruption of the electoral process.

For example, if the candidate of their party had been diagnosed as mentally ill or otherwise unable or fit to assume the “duties of the president”, they would be free to vote for whoever else they wanted. Or EC members could ignore the popular vote for both major candidates and simply pool their votes for another candidate. While the vast majority of Americans might consider that to be unfair, the Electoral College’s majority decision would still be legally binding.

Read more about the Electoral College  ~ particularly why the Founding Fathers rejected the democratic principle of “Majority Rule” for presidential elections

 The 2016 Election as a “Perfect Storm” of the unlikely & the unpredictable

As seen by these figures, Mr. Trump was actually voted FOR by less that 20% of adults living in the US. While this number was 46% of those who voted in the 2016 election, it only represented 27% of the voting population. However, only 49% were “FOR” Trump votes, while 51% of Trump voters used their votes as a protest against a maddeningly unresponsive and frustrating inefficient central government as it is experienced by so many of us (myself included!). The majority of dissatisfied Americans who voted for Mr. Trump did not want or expect that he would actually be elected.

While President Trump sees the 2016 election as a mandate for his ideas, and the Republican party sees it as mandate for an aggressively ‘conservative’ Republican agenda (lowering taxes, repealing the ACA, ending the “administrative” state, etc), the simple and inescapable fact is that 86% of us (86 out of every 100 Americans of voting-age) either did NOT vote for Mr. Trump or cast “protest votes” and did not intend for Mr. Trump to be elected.

streetartI believe that at the very least, 86% of American are in fundamental agreement about 80% of public life —  what we want and expect for ourselves, our families, our local communities and our country. The first thing on that list is UNITY. Unity was the core of the principles of our Founding Fathers, as is clear from the name they chose for our country — the  United States of America.

All for one and one for all

We need above all to think about and promote those areas of life where we already agree — for example, protecting and promoting our civilized way of life. Our civilization is a rare and complicated jewel, one that needs our constant care and “tending”.

As a strategy for political activism at the local level, rethinking the idea of presidential elections would be high on my list.  For the last 241 years We, The People, have assumed that an electoral college process was “better” for our democratic republic than a straightword majority vote.

After having two of the last three presidents be the candidate that did not receive a majority of the popular vote, I think it’s time to revisit that issue.

Do WE, THE PEOPLE honestly think our president should be “elected” by people we don’t know, who did NOT run for public office themselves but are instead nominated by their political party’s state convention or by it’s central committee?  According to the federal government’s archival website on the electoral college, those appointed to the Electoral College are generally “state-elected officials, party leaders, or individuals with a strong affiliation for their party’s candidate”.

Frankly, I thought that free and fair elections that were decided by majority votes was the specifically-democratic method we Americans choose to AVOID having the presidency of the United States decided by an unelected group of people taken from a pool described as mostly “state-elected officials, party leaders, or people with a strong affiliation with their party’s candidate”.

Closing the circle ~

WE THE PEOPLE can and must do better. We can decide its time to re-visit what was originally a legitimate attempt by the Founding Fathers to guard our brand new country against the tyranny of “mob rule”.  By this, they meant a statistical majority of the popular vote for any one candidate (which may be divided between 3 or more presidential contenders) that would result in a very bad choice for president — one that would be unstable or otherwise threaten our democratic republic. But we are not living in the 18th-century anymore, so the idea of mob rule is no longer a primary threat.

As for presidential elections that do not have a clear statistical winner (which hasn’t happened so far), I’m sure we could devise a suitable process to take over that function, should we eliminate the EC as currently configured.

We can enfranchise Americans to vote directly for the presidential candidate of their choice simply by eliminating the unelected “middle men” and political shenanigans associated with the Electoral College.

Devin_RaggetyAnne_HatAnd on this fine St. Patrick’s Day, I want to say “top of the morning” to all!

faith ^O^



streetart46-442x650What is the voting-age population (VAP) and the voting-eligible population (VEP)? (as defined by the US Election Project)

The voting-age population, known by the acronym VAP, is defined by the Bureau of the Census as everyone residing in the United States, age 18 and older. Before 1971, the voting-age population was age 21 and older for most states.

The voting-eligible population or VEP is a phrase that describes the population that is eligible to vote. Counted among the voting-age population are persons who are ineligible to vote, such as non-citizens, felons (depending on state law), and mentally incapacitated persons.

Not counted are persons in the military or civilians living overseas.

The voting-age population is appropriately adjusted in order to arrive at the voting-eligible population. For maximum transparency, the voting-age population estimates and statistics used to modify it to arrive at the voting-eligible population are provided along side the turnout rate.

** Stats published by the US Election Project

 Thought for the day:         0-29                       Leave a place for the Future and for Dreams”


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