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The Daily Tar Heel

Electoral College system contentious after Trump election

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump spoke in the Greensboro Coliseum on Tuesday, June 14th.
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump spoke in the Greensboro Coliseum on Tuesday, June 14th.

Trump secured the nomination by winning 304 out of 538 total electors, while Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by around 3 million votes.

William Marshall, a professor at the UNC School of Law, said while some might believe the Electoral College to be undemocratic, the election was never about winning the popular vote.

“You can’t judge this election by what happened to the popular vote because neither campaign’s strategy was aimed at winning the popular vote,” he said.

Despite criticism of the electoral college, Timothy Ryan, an assistant professor in UNC’s department of political science, said a popular vote alone might be problematic.

“I don’t really see that as politically feasible, certainly not in the short term,” Ryan said. “But it’s something that’s worth discussing, if only to highlight why the other possibility, that of only having the popular vote, may have some problematic features.”

Mike Burns, national director of the Campus Vote Project — an organization that works to educate and help students register to vote — said he is very interested to see how the outcome of this election will affect young people.

“For a lot of (young voters), this has been the first election they ever had the chance to vote in,” he said. “I mean obviously it’s not a monolith that the under-30 crowd voted a lot more in one direction, but I’d be interested to see how they respond to the outcome of this election.”

Ryan said it is unlikely this election will change much about the public’s interest in the electoral process.

“We still have a lot of energy and so forth surrounding each presidential election, even though we’ve had the Electoral College for as long as we’ve had presidential elections. So I don’t see any big change in that coming from the most recent election,” he said.

Faithless electors are uncommon and rarely affect the outcome of an election, Ryan said.

“Although we’ve had a number of faithless electors over the years, including this year, it has never been close enough to be pivotal,” he said.

This election, one faithless elector cast their ballot for Faith Spotted Eagle, the first Native American in American history to receive a vote in the Electoral College.

Burns said suggesting a certain candidate won the popular vote is not enough because they might not have gained a majority in a system without an Electoral College.

“People in other states felt like their vote mattered more or that they needed to turn it out because every individual vote was being counted, as opposed to you know even some of the smaller states that might feel like they don’t need to go out and vote because their state is going one way or the other,” he said.

Marshall said he thinks it is unlikely there will be any fundamental changes as a result of this election.

“I think that usually what happens after an election like this is that the issue is salient for a while and then it kind of disappears, so I don’t expect that there will be much in the way of comprehensive reform.”

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