Hillary Clinton now leads the national popular vote for president by roughly one million votes, and her victory margin is expanding rapidly. That margin could easily double before the end of an arduous process of counting ballots, reviewing results, and reconciling numbers for an official total.
But one thing is certain: Clinton’s win is unprecedented in the modern history of American presidential politics. And the numbers should focus attention on the democratic dysfunction that has been exposed.
When a candidate who wins the popular vote does not take office, when a loser is instead installed in the White House, that is an issue. And it raises questions that must be addressed.
So let’s address them:
WHO WON THE NATIONAL POPULAR VOTE? AND BY HOW MUCH?
Clinton is winning it. The only question now has to do with the size of the win. You will see different numbers in different counts because keeping on top of the national totals requires constant monitoring of the results from 50 states and the District of Columbia. The nonpartisan Cook Political Report maintains one of the most frequently updated spreadsheets on the race. One week after the election, it had Clinton with 62,403,269 votes to 61,242,652 for Trump. That puts Clinton ahead by 1.16 million votes. Another able chronicler of the count, Dave Leip’s Atlas of U.S. Presidential Elections, also puts Clinton ahead by more than one million votes.
The million-vote figure is a baseline from which to analyze Clinton’s popular-vote victory. But it is only that—a baseline—as her margin will continue to expand.
HOW COME NO ONE IS GOING OVER 50 PERCENT?
The previous three US presidential elections saw the winning candidates win actual majorities of the popular vote. But that won’t happen this time. As in 18 previous presidential elections, the winner of the popular vote in this year’s election will achieve only a plurality of the votes.
More than a million votes have already been counted for Libertarian Gary Johnson, Green Jill Stein, independent Evan McMullin and others, according to various counts. The totals for third-party, independent, and write-in candidates will rise as the tabulation continues—providing a powerful indication of the desire for a broader democracy and political alternatives. The high level of support for third-party and independent candidates also guarantees that neither major-party candidate will do this year what Barack Obama did in 2008 and 2012: win a majority of the popular vote.