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Correcting Trump’s Disingenuous Comments On Changing From The Electoral College To The Popular Vote [Opinion]

It may be the case he doesn’t know any better — that President Donald Trump really believes the things he says about the Electoral College. And who could blame him? His arguments in favor of keeping it in place mirror those of others who have tried to defend the archaic system.

Photo by Brendan Smialowski /AFP/Getty Images

But Trump’s characterizations of the Electoral College versus a popular vote model for selecting the president are wrong, whether he knows it or not, and deserve to be corrected.

On Thursday evening, during a campaign rally in Texas, Trump implied the Electoral College was better because “you go everywhere” — suggesting that the supposed campaign map is bigger if you have to court states based on their Electoral College counts, the New York Times reported.

But that’s hogwash: in fact, the map may be smaller. In 2016, for instance, candidates involved in the general election for president only visited 12 states in the country 95 percent of the time. Among those 12, none of them were so-called “small” states with the bare minimum of three Electoral College votes.

Trump also said on Thursday that he would win easily if a popular vote for president was implemented. “I’d go to four states and relax,” he said.

That, too, isn’t the case. Trump’s comments imply that he could win just by going to heavily-populated states. That’s just not feasible, if you look at the data on the subject.

As I’ve pointed out in previous commentaries on this subject, if a candidate wanted to do the bare minimum of travel to court voters, they’d have to go to 38 of the most heavily-populated metropolitan areas in the country, which covers 24 states in the Union, just to get a majority of voters on their side.

That’s already more travel than the Electoral College required for candidates in most of their travels in 2016, but again, it’s the bare minimum, which presumes a single candidate could get 100 percent of the vote in those areas. With that presumption being incredibly unlikely, even more travel would be required to court more voters.

Traveling to just the “top four states” would represent about 29.7 percent of the total number of registered voters in the country — a strategy that would likely cause someone to lose, if carried out. And that’s not even pointing out the fact that two of the top four states, in terms of registration numbers, voted for Trump’s opponent in 2016.

Presuming Trump traveled only to the top four states with the highest registration numbers in places he won, he’d only win something like 22 percent of the vote — which, again, presumes he’d win 100 percent of the vote in those states. Even if he traveled to the top seven states he won, with 100 percent of the vote there, he’d only get 32 percent of the vote.

It wouldn’t be much better for Democrats, either: had a popular vote been in place in 2016, and had Clinton traveled to the top four Democratic-leaning states she won that year, she would have only won 22 percent of the vote, too — which, again, assumes she would win EVERY vote in those states.

Trump is dead wrong in his recent comments about the Electoral College: getting rid of it wouldn’t make things easier, but rather more difficult, for him and his opponents, in terms of courting voters.

In short, the so-called “camping-out” theory regarding a popular vote model for president — that candidates would simply stick to one region of the country to win — is rubbish. It’s not an accurate portrayal of how things would actually work under such a system.