From all the drama that was the 2016 presidential campaign cycle, it seemed on Election Night that there was at least one silver lining to it all: Voter turnout surged throughout the U.S., with enthusiasm for the two polarizing, major-party candidates likely driving voters to the polls one way or another. For her part, the total votes Hillary Clinton earned in the election might not have been enough, but still cemented her place in history as the first woman to appear at the top of a major party's listing on the ballot.
Many voters, likely including some of those who voted for Clinton, took advantage of early voting options before Election Day even began. For instance, more than 26 million voters cast their ballots on or before last Tuesday, at least a full week ahead of Election Day. Those early totals only fueled the expectations that this year's election would see record voter turnout. However, the day after the election, it was clear that Donald Trump had received the majority of electoral votes — even though Clinton had received more popular votes. As of Wednesday at 4 p.m. ET, Clinton had earned more than 59,731,000 votes, and Trump had earned more than 59,520,000 votes.
In 2012, President Obama earned 65,915,795 votes, compared with Mitt Romney's 60,933,504 votes, according to the Federal Election Commission. Clinton's total from Tuesday and early voting puts her south of Obama's most recent vote total.
Ultimately, it wasn't the nationwide vote total that really mattered to Clinton on Tuesday. Although she needed a large number of individual votes, she more importantly needed just 270 votes from the Electoral College. Those votes are determined not by nationwide vote totals, but by state-by-state vote totals. In most cases, the Electoral College allocates votes on a winner-take-all basis, which means that Clinton needed to earn more individual votes than Trump in a number of states to actually earn the presidency.
According to the numbers available on Wednesday, Clinton won big states like California, New York, and Illinois. The popular votes in those states contributed to Clinton's overall vote total, but they also helped her add to her electoral vote total. Trump, on the other hand, won important swing states like North Carolina, Ohio, and Florida, giving him the edge.