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Is it time the US Electoral College voting system was done away with?

Hillary Clinton won the popular vote but lost the election. But ending the Electoral College would mean altering the US Constitution – no easy task.

2016 Election Clinton Hillary Clinton greeting a tearful supporter after making her concession speech in New York on Wednesday Source: Andrew Harnik

AS OF TALLIES yesterday, Donald Trump has won the US presidential election while losing the popular vote, making him the second straight Republican commander-in-chief to do so – and likely raising calls for electoral reform.

With results still trickling in, districts at time of publishing continued to count ballots including those from absentee voters.

Democrat Hillary Clinton was ahead of Trump in the popular vote by a razor-thin margin, 59.9 million votes to 59.6 million.

But because of the nature of the state-by-state winner-take-all Electoral College system, Trump prevailed by clinching a majority of the Electoral College’s 538 votes.

Robert Shapiro, a political science professor at Columbia University, said critics will likely push for US officials to abolish the arcane system.

“There might be some initial clamour, but then it will disappear,” Shapiro told AFP, noting that fully scrapping the Electoral College would require amending the US Constitution, an extraordinarily difficult task.

Clinton’s popular vote performance brought to mind the controversial 2000 election, when Democrat Al Gore took 48.4% of the popular vote to George W Bush’s 47.9%.

With close elections increasingly the norm, Shapiro expects more outcomes in which the popular vote winner falls short of electoral victory, which for some raises “the question of how democratic our system is”.

At the moment, Democrats have been the victims of the system. When a Republican candidate suffers the same fate, he added, there might be broader, bipartisan calls for electoral reform.

Documentary-maker and commentator Michael Moore made a point of referencing the Electoral College in a “Morning-After To Do List” posted after Trump’s election was confirmed.

michael moore Source: Facebook/Michael Moore

“You must say this sentence to everyone you meet today: ‘HILLARY CLINTON WON THE POPULAR VOTE!’ The MAJORITY of our fellow Americans preferred Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump.

Period. Fact. If you woke up this morning thinking you live in an effed-up country, you don’t. The majority of your fellow Americans wanted Hillary, not Trump.
The only reason he’s president is because of an arcane, insane 18th-century idea called the Electoral College. Until we change that, we’ll continue to have presidents we didn’t elect and didn’t want.

Moore, who infamously predicted that Trump would emerge triumphant in the election as far back as summer 2015, does not call for the end of the Electoral College, rather he just says it is responsible for Clinton’s defeat, suggesting he’s well aware how difficult removing it would be.

While “one person, one vote” is a pillar of democracy, the irony is that the US Constitution does not provide for the right to directly vote for the presidency of the United States.

Each of the 50 states and the capital Washington has a number of electors based on its congressional representation.

Texas, the second most populous state, has 38 electoral votes. In the winner-take-all system, Trump won the state by 53% to 43% for Clinton, but that earned Trump all 38 electoral votes.

As it stands today, states could take matters into their own hands without changing the Constitution, Shapiro explained.

Each state legislature could pass a law that simply requires its state to allocate its electors to the winner of the national popular vote.

But all previous efforts to introduce such reforms have come up short.

Additional reporting Cianan Brennan

© – AFP, 2016

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