As my US readers may remember from their mandatory high-school civics class, presidential elections in the US are kind of odd. Presidents aren’t elected by the people. Instead, their elected through the Electoral College — the people’s votes tell the Electoral College what candidate the state votes for, and each state has a certain number of electoral college votes.
Thing is, each state (with apparently two exceptions) throws all of its Electoral College votes at the winner of the election in that state. In other words, even if 49.9% of the people in the state are for one candidate and 50.1% are for another, the state gives all of its Electoral College votes to the candidate with 50.1% of the support.
Because of that, candidates never pay much attention to states that are mostly Democrat or mostly Republican. They only concentrate on a handful of “swing states.”
It’s possible for a candidate to take the majority of the votes, but lose the election because due to the distribution of those votes, the Electoral College voted the other way. And not only possible, it has happened — at least three times, including in Bush vs. Gore in 2000.
Obviously this is a pretty poor way to run a democracy. It might have been necessary in the late 1700s, but we have computers and near-instant communications now, and the majority of people have favored changing to direct elections — where every vote in every state is counted equally — since at least 1967. And I’ve just today discovered that there has been a concerted legal push for just that for at least the last five years, the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact.
Will it succeed? It already has half of the support it needs, and that keeps growing, so it seems that the question is when it’ll happen, not whether. It’ll be interesting to watch, at any rate.