Which States Are Winner-Take-All On Election Day? The 2016 Race Is Very Close
If you've been following election results as they roll in tonight, you may be wondering which states are "winner takes all" — and what exactly does the phrase mean in this context? As it turns out, being a "winner take all" state — which means a state where all of the state's electoral votes go to whichever candidate gets the most popular votes in the state, even if the margin between the two candidates is very close — is a very popular thing to be: every state except Maine and Nebraska is a winner-take-all state. All 48 other states, as well as District of Columbia, are winner-take-all in presidential elections. Maine and Nebraska, in contrast, have a proportional voting system, meaning that the state's electoral votes can go to support different candidates.
The winner-take-all situation is how a candidate who won the popular vote can still lose the electoral vote, and thus the presidency, which has occurred four times in American history. It happened most recently in the 2000 presidential election, when George Bush was declared the winner of the general election with 271 electoral votes to Al Gore's 266, despite the fact that Gore got 540,000 more popular votes than Bush.