In 2012, Donald Trump said, "The electoral college is a disaster for a democracy. ... A total sham and a travesty."
On Sixty Minutes on November 13, 2016, President-Elect Trump said:
"I would rather see it, where you went with simple votes. You know, you get 100 million votes, and somebody else gets 90 million votes, and you win. There’s a reason for doing this. Because it brings all the states into play."
State winner-take-all laws are the reason why the vast majority of voters and states are not in play in presidential campaigns. The vast majority of states and the vast majority of voters are ignored because candidates only campaign only in a handful of closely divided "battleground" states. Candidates write off states where they are hopelessly behind. They take for granted states where they are safely ahead. In the 2016 general-election campaign:
- Over half of the campaign events (57% of the 399 events) were held in just 4 states (Florida, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Ohio).
- Virtually all of the campaign events (94%) were in just 12 states (containing only 30% of the country's population).
As presidential candidate and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker (R) pointedly observed in 2015,
"The nation as a whole is not going to elect the next president. Twelve states are." Video
The map below shows the number of 2016 general-election campaign events received by each state. See Map
State winner-take-all laws are also the reason why it is possible for a candidate to win the Presidency without winning the national popular vote. Under state winner-take-all laws, all of a state's electoral votes go to the candidate receiving the most popular votes in each separate state. If these state laws are not changed, there will likely be more presidential elections in which the loser of the national popular vote wins the Electoral College. This is especially true because we are in an era of close presidential elections (the average margin in the national popular vote has been only 5% since 1988). Five out of our 45 Presidents came into office after losing the national popular vote.
Here's what Trump said to Lesley Stahl about the Electoral College and a national popular vote for President on Sixty Minutes on November 13, 2016:
Stahl: Now for months you were running around saying the system is rigged. The whole thing was rigged. You tweeted once that the Electoral College is a “disaster for democracy.”
Trump: I do.
Stahl: So do you still think it’s rigged?
Trump: Well, I think the Electoral College. Look I won with the Electoral College.
Stahl: Exactly. But do you think it’s rigged?
Trump: Yes. Some of the election locations are. Some of the system is. Ah.
Stahl: Even though you won, you’re saying that.
Trump: Well, I mean, I’m not going to change my mind just because I won. But I would rather see it, where you went with simple votes. You know, you get 100 million votes, and somebody else gets 90 million votes, and you win. There’s a reason for doing this. Because it brings all the states into play. The Electoral College. And there’s something very good about that. But this is a different system. But I respect it. I do respect the system.
Although Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton rarely agree, Clinton said in 2000,
"I believe strongly that in a democracy, we should respect the will of the people … and move to the popular election of our president.”