Philosophischer Essay Wettbewerb 2012 Electoral Votes

The presidential candidates and their political parties, number of electoral and popular votes received, and vice presidential candidates for every election from 1789 to 2008 are listed below, in reverse chronological order. Every candidate that received either more than 100,000 popular votes or at least one electoral vote has been included.

Please note that there is no official federal record of popular votes cast in presidential elections because the information is compiled by each state, so the totals vary across different sources. ProCon.org used data provided by the National Archives and Records Administration when possible, and supplemented the missing information with data from Dave Leip's Atlas of US Presidential Elections and the Federal Elections Commission. The data were corroborated with other sources including the New York Times, CNN, and PresidentElect.org. While the sites had discrepencies in the numbers provided for the popular vote totals, all reported totals were within 1% of each other.

Don't miss our Election History "Did You Know?" at the bottom of the page.

YearPresidential Candidates
(winner in bold)
Political Parties*Electoral Votes**Popular VotesVP Candidates
(winner in bold)
2012Barack Obama (44th Pres.)
Mitt Romney
Virgil Goode
Gary Johnson
Jill Stein
Democratic
Republican
Constitution
Libertarian
Green
332
206
0
0
0
65,899,660
60,932,152
122,001
1,275,804
469,501
Joe Biden
Paul Ryan
Jim Clymer
James P. Gray
Cheri Honkala

2008Barack Obama (44th Pres.)
John McCain
Ralph Nader
Bob Barr
Chuck Baldwin
Cynthia McKinney
Democratic
Republican
Independent
Libertarian
Constitution
Green
365
173
0
0
0
0
69,456,897
59,934,814
738,475
523,686
199,314
161,603
Joe Biden
Sarah Palin
Matt Gonzalez
Wayne Root
Darrell Castle
Rosa Clemente

George W. Bush (43rd)
John Kerry
Ralph Nader
Michael Badnarik
Michael Peroutka
David Cobb
Republican
Democratic
Independent
Libertarian
Constitution
Green
62,040,610
59,028,439
463,655
397,265
144,499
119,859
Dick Cheney
John Edwards
Peter Camejo
Richard Campagna
Charles Baldwin
Pat LaMarche

*One elector from Minnesota cast a vote for John Edwards.

George W. Bush (43rd)
Al Gore
Ralph Nader
Pat Buchanan
Harry Browne
Republican
Democratic
Green
Reform
Libertarian
50,456,002
50,999,897**
2,882,955
448,895
384,431
Dick Cheney
Joe Lieberman
Winona LaDuke
Ezola B. Foster
Art Olivier

*One elector from the District of Columbia left her ballot blank to protest the city's lack of representation in Congress.

**Although Gore received more popular votes, Bush received more electoral votes and therefore won the presidency.

Bill Clinton (42nd)
Bob Dole
Ross Perot
Ralph Nader
Harry Browne
Howard Phillips
Democratic
Republican
Reform
Green
Libertarian
Taxpayers
45,590,703
37,816,307
7,866,284
685,128
485,798
184,820
Al Gore
Jack Kemp
Pat Choate
Winona LaDuke
Jo Jorgensen
Herbert Titus

Bill Clinton (42nd)
George H.W. Bush
Ross Perot
Andre Marrou
James "Bo" Gritz
Democratic
Republican
Independent
Libertarian
Populist
44,909,326
39,103,882
19,741,657
291,627
107,014
Al Gore
Dan Quayle
James Stockdale
Nancy Lord
Cy Minett
George H.W. Bush (41st)
Michael Dukakis
Lloyd Bentsen*
Ron Paul
Lenora Fulani
Republican
Democratic
Democratic
Libertarian
New Alliance
48,886,597
41,809,476
none*
431,750
217,221
Dan Quayle
Lloyd M. Bentsen
Michael S. Dukakis*
Andre V. Marrou
Joyce Dattner

*One elector voted for Bentsen as President and Dukakis as Vice President as a statement against the US Electoral College.

Ronald Reagan (40th)
Walter Mondale
David Bergland
Republican
Democratic
Libertarian
54,455,075
37,577,185
228,111
George H.W. Bush
Geraldine Ferraro
Jim Lewis

Ronald Reagan (40th)
Jimmy Carter
John Anderson
Edward Clark
Barry Commoner
Republican
Democratic
Independent
Libertarian
Citizens
43,904,153
35,483,883
5,719,437
920,049
232,538
George H.W. Bush
Walter Mondale
Patrick Lucey
David Koch
LaDonna Harris

Jimmy Carter (39th)
Gerald R. Ford
Ronald Reagan*
Eugene J. McCarthy
Roger MacBride
Lester Maddox
Thomas J. Anderson
Democratic
Republican
Republican
Independent
Libertarian
Amer.-Independent
American
40,830,763
39,147,793
none*
756,631
172,553
170,274
158,271
Walter Mondale
Bob Dole
Bob Dole
None
David Bergland
William Dyke
Rufus Shackelford

*Reagan was not in the race; a sole elector from Washington gave him a vote.



*Nixon resigned as President Aug. 9, 1974. He was succeeded by Gerald Ford.

**Rockefeller became Vice President under the provisions of the 25th Amendment: "Whenever there is a vacancy in the office of the Vice President, the President shall nominate a Vice President who shall take office upon confirmation by a majority vote of both Houses of Congress."
Richard Nixon (37th)
George McGovern
John Hospers
John Schmitz
Republican
Democratic
Libertarian
American
47,169,911
29,170,383
3,674
1,100,868
Spiro Agnew*
Sargent Shriver
Theodora Nathan
Thomas J. Anderson

*Spiro Agnew resigned as Vice President Oct. 10, 1973. He was succeeded by Gerald Ford.

Richard Nixon (37th)
Hubert Humphrey
George Wallace
Republican
Democratic
American Independent
31,785,480
31,275,166
9,906,473
Spiro Agnew
Edmund Muskie
Curtis LeMay

Lyndon Johnson (36th)
Barry Goldwater
486
52
Hubert Humphrey
William Miller

John F. Kennedy* (35th)
Richard Nixon
Harry F. Byrd
Democratic
Republican
Independent
34,226,731
34,108,157
none
Lyndon Johnson
Henry Lodge
Strom Thurmond

*Kennedy was assassinated Nov. 22, 1963. He was succeeded by Lyndon Johnson, who became the 36th President of the United States.

Dwight Eisenhower (34th)
Adlai Stevenson
Walter Jones
T. Coleman Andrews
Republican
Democratic
Democratic
State's Rights
35,590,472
26,022,752
none
107,929
Richard Nixon
Estes Kefauver
Herman Talmadge
Thomas Werdel
Dwight Eisenhower (34th)
Adlai Stevenson
Vincent Hallinan
Republican
Democratic
Progressive
33,936,234
27,314,992
140,746
Richard Nixon
John Sparkman
Charlotta Bass

Harry S. Truman (33rd)
Thomas Dewey
Strom Thurmond
Henry Wallace
Norman Thomas
Claude A. Watson
Democratic
Republican
State's Rights
Progressive
Socialist
Prohibition
24,179,345
21,991,291
1,169,021
1,157,172
139,569
103,708
Alben Barkley
Earl Warren
Fielding Wright
Glen Taylor
Tucker Smith
Dale Learn

Franklin D. Roosevelt* (32nd)
Thomas Dewey
Harry Truman
John Bricker

*Roosevelt died of a cerebral hemorrhage Apr. 12, 1945. He was succeeded by Harry Truman, who became the 33rd President of the United States.

Franklin D. Roosevelt (32nd)
Wendell Willkie
Norman Thomas
Democratic
Republican
Socialist
27,313,041
22,348,480
116,599
Henry Wallace
Charles McNary
Maynard Krueger

Franklin D. Roosevelt (32nd)
Alfred Landon
William Lemke
Norman Thomas
Democratic
Republican
Union
Socialist
27,757,333
16,684,231
892,378
187,910
John Garner
Frank Knox
Thomas O'Brian
George Nelson
Franklin D. Roosevelt (32nd)

The Electoral College is widely regarded as an anachronism, a nondemocratic method of selecting a president that ought to be superseded by declaring the candidate who receives the most popular votes the winner. The advocates of this position are correct in arguing that the Electoral College method is not democratic in a modern sense. The Constitution provides that “Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors, equal to the whole Number of Senators and Representatives to which the State may be entitled in the Congress.” And it is the electors who elect the president, not the people. When you vote for a presidential candidate you’re actually voting for a slate of electors.

But each party selects a slate of electors trusted to vote for the party’s nominee (and that trust is rarely betrayed). Because virtually all states award all their electoral votes to the winner of the popular vote in the state, and because the Electoral College weights the less populous states more heavily along the lines of the Senate (two Senators and two Electoral College votes for every state, and then more electoral votes added for each state based on population), it is entirely possible that the winner of the electoral vote will not win the national popular vote. Yet that has happened very rarely. It happened in 2000, when Gore had more popular votes than Bush yet fewer electoral votes, but that was the first time since 1888.

There are five reasons for retaining the Electoral College despite its lack of democratic pedigree; all are practical reasons, not liberal or conservative reasons.

A dispute over the outcome of an Electoral College vote is possible—it happened in 2000—but it’s less likely than a dispute over the popular vote. The reason is that the winning candidate’s share of the Electoral College invariably exceeds his share of the popular vote. In last week’s election, for example, Obama received 61.7 percent of the electoral vote compared to only 51.3 percent of the popular votes cast for him and Romney. (I ignore the scattering of votes not counted for either candidate.) Because almost all states award electoral votes on a winner-take-all basis, even a very slight plurality in a state creates a landslide electoral-vote victory in that state. A tie in the nationwide electoral vote is possible because the total number of votes—538—is an even number, but it is highly unlikely.*

Of course a tie in the number of popular votes in a national election in which tens of millions of votes are cast is even more unlikely. But if the difference in the popular vote is small, then if the winner of the popular vote were deemed the winner of the presidential election, candidates would have an incentive to seek a recount in any state (plus the District of Columbia) in which they thought the recount would give them more additional votes than their opponent. The lawyers would go to work in state after state to have the votes recounted, and the result would be debilitating uncertainty, delay, and conflict—look at the turmoil that a dispute limited to one state, Florida, engendered in 2000.*

2) Everyone’s President

The Electoral College requires a presidential candidate to have transregional appeal. No region (South, Northeast, etc.) has enough electoral votes to elect a president. So a solid regional favorite, such as Romney was in the South, has no incentive to campaign heavily in those states, for he gains no electoral votes by increasing his plurality in states that he knows he will win. This is a desirable result because a candidate with only regional appeal is unlikely to be a successful president. The residents of the other regions are likely to feel disfranchised—to feel that their votes do not count, that the new president will have no regard for their interests, that he really isn’t their president.

The winner-take-all method of awarding electoral votes induces the candidates—as we saw in last week’s election—to focus their campaign efforts on the toss-up states; that follows directly from the candidates’ lack of inducement to campaign in states they are sure to win. Voters in toss-up states are more likely to pay close attention to the campaign—to really listen to the competing candidates—knowing that they are going to decide the election. They are likely to be the most thoughtful voters, on average (and for the further reason that they will have received the most information and attention from the candidates), and the most thoughtful voters should be the ones to decide the election.

The Electoral College restores some of the weight in the political balance that large states (by population) lose by virtue of the mal-apportionment of the Senate decreed in the Constitution. This may seem paradoxical, given that electoral votes are weighted in favor of less populous states. Wyoming, the least populous state, contains only about one-sixth of 1 percent of the U.S. population, but its three electors (of whom two are awarded only because Wyoming has two senators like every other state) give it slightly more than one-half of 1 percent of total electoral votes. But winner-take-all makes a slight increase in the popular vote have a much bigger electoral-vote payoff in a large state than in a small one. The popular vote was very close in Florida; nevertheless Obama, who won that vote, got 29 electoral votes. A victory by the same margin in Wyoming would net the winner only 3 electoral votes. So, other things being equal, a large state gets more attention from presidential candidates in a campaign than a small states does. And since presidents and senators are often presidential candidates, large states are likely to get additional consideration in appropriations and appointments from presidents and senators before as well as during campaigns, offsetting to some extent the effects of the malapportioned Senate on the political influence of less populous states.

5) Avoid Run-Off Elections

The Electoral College avoids the problem of elections in which no candidate receives a majority of the votes cast. For example, Nixon in 1968 and Clinton in 1992 both had only a 43 percent plurality of the popular votes, while winning a majority in the Electoral College (301 and 370 electoral votes, respectively). There is pressure for run-off elections when no candidate wins a majority of the votes cast; that pressure, which would greatly complicate the presidential election process, is reduced by the Electoral College, which invariably produces a clear winner.

Against these reasons to retain the Electoral College the argument that it is undemocratic falls flat. No form of representative democracy, as distinct from direct democracy, is or aspires to be perfectly democratic. Certainly not our federal government. In the entire executive and judicial branches, only two officials are elected—the president and vice president. All the rest are appointed—federal Article III judges for life.

It can be argued that the Electoral College method of selecting the president may turn off potential voters for a candidate who has no hope of carrying their state—Democrats in Texas, for example, or Republicans in California. Knowing their vote will have no effect, they have less incentive to pay attention to the campaign than they would have if the president were picked by popular vote, for then the state of a voter’s residence would be irrelevant to the weight of his vote. But of course no voter’s vote swings a national election, and in spite of that, about one-half the eligible American population did vote in last week’s election. Voters in presidential elections are people who want to express a political preference rather than people who think that a single vote may decide an election. Even in one-sided states, there are plenty of votes in favor of the candidate who is sure not to carry the state. So I doubt that the Electoral College has much of a turn-off effect. And if it does, that is outweighed by the reasons for retaining this seemingly archaic institution.

Correction, Nov. 13, 2012: This piece incorrectly stated that a tie occurred in the Electoral College in 1824. (Return to the corrected sentence.) It also misstated the situation in which candidates would have an incentive to seek a recount if the winner were determined by the popular vote. (Return to the corrected sentence.) Thanks to Texas State Representative Scott Hochberg and Barnard professor Scott Minkoff for the corrections.

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