Clinton supporters who want to abolish Electoral College miss the point
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A lot of Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonAs Buttigieg rises, Biden is still the target Harris rips Gabbard over Fox appearances during Obama years Steyer, Gabbard and Yang shut out of early minutes of Democratic debate MORE voters upset at the outcome of the historic upset of an presidential election are arguing that the results are yet another reason to abolish the antiquated Electoral College, since Clinton will likely wind up with around 1 million more popular votes than Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpFive takeaways from the Democratic debate As Buttigieg rises, Biden is still the target Leading Democrats largely pull punches at debate MORE.

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Filmmaker Michael Moore spoke for a lot of these folks when he claimed that Trump is an "illegitimate president" who "does not have the vote of the people."

While there are a number of cogent arguments for Electoral College reform, this is not one of them.

The notion that Trump's victory is somehow delegitimized because of his failure to capture the most popular votes betrays a fundamental misunderstanding of how the winner-take-all electoral vote system has a dramatic effect on everything from campaign strategy to voter motivation and turnout.

Though that should be obvious to any serious observer of our system of elections in this country, it evidently bears repeating given that the notion that Trump has no mandate to govern is becoming more insistent among his opponents.

That contention simply doesn't hold water.

First of all, the winner-take-all contest for electoral votes in 48 of the 50 states means, by definition, that candidates in the general election will focus their campaign efforts in states that are considered toss-ups, or at least within the realm of possibility. That category currently includes around 10 states, give or take.

As a result, the candidates spend virtually all of their time between the conventions and Election Day campaigning in those states and treating the rest of the nation (including, for example, the three most populous states in the Union: California, Texas and New York) as "flyover country."

That strategic decision would drastically change if a candidate were looking for every vote they could get in every state, regardless who came out with a majority of popular votes in that state. Candidate Trump, for instance, would have spent a lot more time in the numerous conservative districts in upstate New York and northern and western California if all that mattered was the national popular vote tally.

"Go where the votes are" would take on a whole new meaning for national campaigns and their strategists, who would be forced to spend more time and attention focusing on the particular concerns of voters in these regions.

As it is, those voters and those issues are ignored, because they are taken for granted.

And they know it. It is not only the lack of attention that serves to depress turnout in states not considered toss-ups; it is also the lack of motivation to turn out for a voter in a solidly red or blue state when that voter's candidate doesn't stand a chance in Hell of winning any of the states' electoral votes.

That holds doubly true in a state like California, which is normally still voting long after the winner of the general election has been projected. It's highly unlikely that Trump would have lost California by a 2-1 popular vote margin in a scenario in which every vote counted.

So, no, the fact that Trump did not win a majority of the popular votes does not detract from his mandate to govern, nor does it indicate he "does not have the vote of the people."

It means that he won the votes of the people that determine the outcome according to the rules everyone was playing by. Whether he, or Hillary Clinton, could have racked up more votes (and whether more people would have been motivated to turn out for their candidate) in an alternative system is another question entirely.

Robertson is CEO of Crispin Solutions, a public affairs and communications consulting firm. He formerly served as policy director for Senate candidate Ed Gillespie's (R) 2014 campaign and was senior policy adviser for the Joint Economic Committee.


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