We've updated our Gaming the Electoral College feature to show how different allocation methodologies would have played out had they been in place for the 2016 presidential election. The chart below summarizes the results for 2016 and compares them to 2012.
While all the alternative methods benefited Mitt Romney in 2012, they would have negatively impacted Donald Trump's results in 2016. That said, he would still have won the electoral vote, albeit with a smaller margin over Hillary Clinton, in most of these scenarios. The reason is that the winner take all method is much more volatile than the ones involving congressional districts or the popular vote.
Only a small number of the 435 congressional districts are battlegrounds. While voting for one party in a House election doesn't guarantee a similar vote for president, it happens most of the time. In 2016, only 23 districts that voted for a Republican in the House voted for Hillary Clinton. Just 12 voted for a Democrat and Donald Trump. The net effect is that absent a change election that sweeps through the House, the congressional method will yield roughly the same result each time. We see that in 2016 vs. 2012, where Donald Trump had 100 more electoral votes than Mitt Romney, but the difference was only 16 using the method currently used by Maine and Nebraska.
Allocating by popular vote will also yield a close electoral map, absent a landslide. This was especially true in 2016, when Clinton won the popular vote. Trump still comes out ahead in these two options (although doesn't reach 270 if there are no electoral votes separately allocated to the state winner, as the map below shows). This is because we are still looking at each state as an individual contest. The proportional popular vote methods also make it easier for 3rd party candidates to secure electoral votes.
Our first pass at the 2018 Senate Interactive Map is now live. This three-way map lets you look at the current composition of the Senate, make a forecast for the 33 races scheduled for 2018, and then see the new (2019) Senate based on those predictions.
After gaining two Senate seats in the 2016 election, Democrats currently hold 48 seats (including two independents). The party will need to gain an additional three seats in 2018 to wrest control from the Republicans. That will be a tall order as 25 of the 33 seats to be contested in 2018 are currently held by the blue team.
We've included three 'Starting Views'. Two of those are initial ratings from The Cook Political Report and Inside Elections (formerly The Rothenberg & Gonzales Report). We've also included a composite battleground map that shows as competitive any race rated toss-up or leaning by one of the above-mentioned forecasters.
If Jeff Sessions is confirmed as Attorney General, Alabama Governor Robert Bentley would appoint a replacement for Sessions until a special election is held. That election will most likely coincide with the 2018 general election. Assuming it plays out that way, we will add the Alabama race to the map. The winner of the special election would face re-election in 2020, the next regularly scheduled election for that seat.
Two vacanies have arisen this week in the House of Representatives as a result of political appointments. Additional vacancies may be forthcoming as President Trump's nominations are confirmed. Lastly, several House Members have announced they will not be running for re-election in 2018.
With these two vacancies, the House sits at 240 Republicans, 193 Democrats.
Retirements (not running for re-election in 2018) have been announced by:
Grisham and Noem are running for governor in 2018.
As first reported by Political Wire (subscription required for this particular article; a political feed well worth following even if you aren't a member), Republicans in Minnesota, New Hampshire and Virginia have introduced legislation this week to modify the winner-take-all allocation of electoral college votes in their states. All three states were won by Clinton in 2016 and have been won by Democrats for at least the last three presidential elections. It will not surprise you that these proposals would benefit the Republican nominee in future elections should the Democratic streak continue.
All three bills would shift the state from winner-take-all to what is known as the congressional district method. In this method, the winner of the popular vote in the state receives 2 electoral votes, with one electoral vote awarded based on the popular vote result within each congressional district. In 2016, Donald Trump would have won 12 electoral votes in these three states if the rules had been in place.
Legislation to manipulate the electoral college vote seems to arise regularly between elections, and is almost always partisan in nature. For example, while proponents of the current bills will likely claim they are 'fairer', Republicans in Nebraska have repeatedly tried to revert back to winner-take-all since Barack Obama won an electoral vote there in 2008. 'Fairer = benefits me' when it comes to this legislation.
Unintended Consequences: It is worth noting the risk associated with this kind of legislation, as things change. For example, in 2013, Pennsylvania Republican State Senator Dominic Pileggi introduced a bill that would change the state’s allocation to roughly reflect the popular vote. This proposal was clearly meant to benefit his party, which had just lost its 6th consecutive presidential election. Mitt Romney would have won 8 of the state’s 20 electoral votes under Pileggi’s plan. Fast forward to 2016, the first election the new rules would have been in place. Donald Trump broke the Democratic winning streak. This legislation would have cost him 9 electoral votes.
Here's how the electoral map would have turned out in 2016 had every state used the congressional district method:
Coming Soon: We're putting the final touches on the 2016 update to our Gaming the Electoral College feature, which explores a number of alternative methodologies that have been proposed over the past 12 years or so.
The 2016 election made many people aware that the way electoral votes are distributed gives residents of sparsely populated states more clout than those in large states. To take the two extremes, California gets 55 electoral votes for 37.3 million people (2010 Census), or one electoral vote for approximately each 680,000 people. Wyoming receives 3 votes for its 568,000 people, or about one per 190,000. For more detail, see the 'Background' section of this article.
We were curious how the electoral vote would have turned out if the 538 available electoral votes were distributed based exclusively^ on population, so that everyone's vote would have the same weight. As it turns out, it would have made very little difference in the 2016 outcome.
Donald Trump would have received 303 electoral votes, a reduction of just three from the 306+ he actually won. That might seem surprising since Hillary Clinton won the popular vote. There's a second factor at work here, which is the margin of victory in each state. If we look at the states gaining the most using population, the ones Clinton won were by a much larger margin than those won by Trump. California gained 10 electoral votes, New York 5. Clinton won these by 30% and 23%, respectively. On the other hand, Trump won Texas, which gained 6, by 9%, and Florida, which gained 4, by just 1%.
In terms of electoral votes, winning a state by a huge margin is no better than winning by a very small one, and so, in a sense, all those extra actual votes cast for Clinton are not helpful in this framework. For those that favor a national popular vote, the methodology described on this page would likely not be a satisfactory alternative.
Background: Each state receives electoral votes equal to the size of its congressional delegation. That delegation is comprised of two Senators and one Representative for each congressional district in the state. The number of congressional districts is fixed at 435, with the districts reapportioned* across the 50 states, based on population, after each Census. Each state must have at least one congressional district, leaving 385 districts to be allocated by a mathematical formula. (The next Census will take place in 2020, with any changes in electoral votes being effective with the 2024 presidential election.
The above rules mean no state can have fewer than three electoral votes or, put another way, 385 electoral votes are allocated based on population, with 153 (including three for the District of Columbia) essentially fixed. The net effect of this is that smaller population states are overrepresented in the Electoral College, while larger states are underrepresented.
^ We kept electoral votes as whole numbers, so the weighting is not exact. Additionally, we relaxed the rule slightly so that DC and Wyoming would receive an electoral vote. If the model was followed exactly, Missouri and Illinois would have gotten the last two electoral votes. Either way, the 303-235 total would be the same.
+ Ignores faithless electors. Assumes no Maine split, since that state is reduced to two electoral votes.
* After reapportionment, the individual states engage in redistricting, which sets the geographic boundary for each congressional district. Each state has its own procedures for redistricting. That process is undertaken by the legislature in many states, which often leads to gerrymandered districts shaped to protect incumbents and/or maximize the number of congressional districts likely to be won by the party controlling the legislature.
It's a long way off, but we've utilized a recent report from Election Data Services to take a look at how the electoral map may shift after the 2020 Census. We've illustrated it using state winners from the 2016 election, but the map is interactive allowing you to make your own projections. The new electoral map, however it ultimately looks, will be in effect beginning with the 2024 election.
Texas is projected to be the big winner, gaining 4 electoral votes on top of the 4 it gained after the 2010 Census. While Texas has voted Republican since 1976, 2016's margin of victory was the smallest there since 1996. If demographic or other trends make the state even remotely competitive, this will be one of the major battlegrounds of the next decade.
A perennial swing state, Florida, is projected to gain 2 electoral votes, surpassing New York (both have 29 electoral votes today). The Sunshine State has gained at least 2 in every decade since the 1950s. By contrast, in 1948, the New York had 47 electoral votes to just 8 in Florida.
Arizona, Colorado, North Carolina and Oregon are on track to also gain an electoral vote. Since this is a zero-sum game, the 10 votes gained by these 6 states have to come from somehwere. At this point, Illinois looks to lose 2 electoral votes, while 8 other states (Alabama, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and West Virginia) set to lose 1 each.
After each Census, there is a reapportionment of the fixed 435 congressional districts based on relative shifts in population. As each state's electoral votes equals the size of its Congressional delegation (Number of Districts + 2 Senators), the shift in electoral vote is equal to the change in a state's congressional districts. As noted above, Rhode Island could lose a seat. This would give them a single district for the first time ever. We could find only two other instances (South Dakota and Vermont) of a state moving to a single district after previously having two or more.
The Associated Press reports that "it's official: Congress has tallied the Electoral College votes and Donald Trump has been elected president." Mike Pence was elected vice-president.
The count, as with much of the 2016 election, had its share of drama. Several objections were raised but all were disallowed.
The final presidential electoral vote is unchanged from December 19th, when the electors met in their respective state capitals to cast their votes. Trump won 304 electoral votes, Hillary Clinton 227. Seven faithless electors cast their votes for someone else.
Trump will be inaugurated on January 20th at Noon EST.
During late December, we published preliminary results of how the 2016 electoral vote would have turned out using some alternative allocation methodologies. Those projections still look good.
While some vote data is still incomplete, we're now able to provide a pretty good estimate of how the map would have looked* if each state voted as they do in Maine and Nebraska.
Those two states use the congressional district method, which allocates two electoral votes to the popular vote winner in the state, with one going to the popular vote winner in each individual congressional district. In 2016, this approach led to Donald Trump winning one of Maine's four electoral votes.
The actual electoral map (ignoring faithless electors) was Trump 306, Clinton 232. Moving Maine to winner take all would make it 305-233. Under the congressional district method, 15 electoral votes shift to Clinton, and Trump wins a closer race, by a 290-248 total. This is opposite of what we saw in 2012, when Mitt Romney's 206 electoral votes would have become 274, putting him into the White House.
There aren't that many battleground congressional districts in 2010's-era America. This makes the congressional district method much more stable than winner take all. Trump is estimated to have won 230 congressional districts, little changed from the 226 won by Romney in 2012. He also won 6 states that Romney lost. So, while those six states gave Trump 99 more electoral votes than Romney (excl. Maine district), he only improved on Romney's 274 by 16 (6 states @2 each, 4 districts @1 each) with this allocation methodology applied nationwide.
*Campaigns make strategic and tactical decisions based on the rules in place. If each state used the methodology discussed here, more resources would have been deployed to 'battleground districts'. That in mind, there's no way to know for sure how the map would have actually turned out.
We've updated our series of 'Same Since' electoral maps, which go back through time to show presidential election single party voting streaks. There are 13 such maps, one for each election from 1964-2012.
In the 2016 presidential election, Donald Trump won six states (and a district in Maine) that Barack Obama had won in 2012. Three of these states (Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin), as well as the Maine district had been blue for a generation or more. The other three states (Florida, Iowa, Ohio) were last 'red' in 2004.
Click the image above to view full-sized versions of the map, along with a short description of the changes associated with each election.
One of the more popular questions we get asked is how the election would have turned out using some other allocation methodology. We analyzed this for the 2012 election, and plan to update that for 2016 once all the data is finalized. Look for that over the next month or so.
Enough information is now available to make a pretty good estimate how things would have turned out with each alternative approach*. The bottom line is that in most cases, Donald Trump would still have surpassed 270 electoral votes, but his winning margin would be less than the 74 (306-232, ignoring faithless) electoral votes by which he actually won. However, the impact of these alternate methods is insignificant compared to 2012.
All electoral votes discussed below (and in the table above) are based on Election Day results. Faithless electors are assumed to have voted as pledged.
Winner Take All: Only Maine and Nebraska use a method other than winner take all. This year, Trump won an electoral vote in Maine, which he would not have won if Maine used winner take all.
Congressional District (CD): This is the method currently used by Maine & Nebraska, where two electoral votes go to the popular vote winner of the state, with one awarded to the popular vote winner in each congressional district. In 2012, Romney would have gained 68 electoral votes from the 206 he won, putting him in the White House with 274. This year, Trump would have lost 16, giving him 290. Trump won a number of states that Romney lost, such as Pennsylvania and Ohio, with a large portion of conservative districts. As a result, in these states, the congressional district method would be less beneficial to Trump than winner take all.
CD Majority: This method awards two electoral votes to the winner of the majority of CD in the state, with one awarded to the popular vote winner in each CD. This method will only yield different results than the other CD method when the state popular vote winner doesn't also win the majority of districts. That was infrequent in the 2016 election. Clinton won two states (Minnesota, Virginia), where Trump won a majority of the districts. She also won three states, where the two split the districts. As a result, Trump did 7 better (297 to 290) with this variant of the CD method.
Popular Vote 1 & 2: These two methods allocate electoral votes based on state-by-state popular vote. With Popular Vote 1, two electoral votes go to the winner of the state, with the remainder allocated based on the percentage of popular vote. Popular Vote 2 allocates all the electoral votes based on popular vote percentage. Since Clinton won the popular vote nationally, we would expect these results to be close, and indeed they are. Trump still wins with Popular Vote 1 because he won many more states (30) than Clinton (20+DC). That fact still benefits him - although less so - in Popular Vote 2 because the allocation is done state-by-state. Due to the relative success of third party candidates in 2016, neither Trump nor Clinton would have achieved 270 electoral votes with Popular Vote 2 methodology, throwing the election to the House of Representatives.
*Keep in mind that campaigns make strategic and resource decisions based on the rules in place. If the rules were different, the strategy would be different. That in mind, there's no way to know for sure how the 2016 election would have turned out if another methodology had been in place.
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