Popular vote vs. electoral vote: here’s why they both matter

Trump, Biden head to Wisconsin Friday
Posted at 8:15 PM, Nov 05, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-05 21:15:04-05

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — The record voter turnout has already shown us that this is one election we won’t forget soon. It’s also shown us how once again the popular vote and the electoral college, don’t always see eye-to-eye.

If you focus too much on the numbers, it won’t be long before confusion sets in. You may hear the race to the White House is still too close to call, but then you see the more than four million vote lead currently held by former vice president Joe Biden over president Donald Trump.

“Probably nine out of 10 times, the popular vote and the electoral vote align,” said professor John Vile of Middle Tennessee State University.

On the rare occasion that there's not a repeat of what happened in 2016. Then-candidate Trump beat Hilary Clinton, while behind millions in the popular vote. Vile says it’s something we’ve only seen five times in our nation’s presidential elections, but twice in the past 20 years.

“It’s possible depending on what happens to these marginal states right now that it could happen again this year.

If President Trump wins without claiming the popular vote, he will become the only president in history to do so twice.

A candidate needs 270 electoral votes to win it all, so what your vote is doing is helping decide which candidate will get your state’s electoral votes. Every so often electors go against the popular vote and it’s one part of why some say we need to get rid of the electoral college.

Vile says a presidential election without an electoral college would look a lot different than people can imagine.

First, there would be no such thing as battleground states, because every vote would count toward the final tally. As is the case with every other election down-ballot. Candidates would be forced to focus on getting the most number of votes from across the country, rather than pool their resources in key swing states.

With the electoral college voting system as it stands, Vile says people living in states with a strong Democrat or Republican stronghold may not bother with voting.

Vile still advocates for voting and says one reason others should as well is because of the down-ballot elections that still need your attention.

“We focus on the presidency, but the consequences for voting for members of the House and US Senate have been very consequential,” Vile said.