Can Hillary Clinton Win If She Wins The Popular Vote? The Electoral College Decides The Race

TOPSHOT - Sri Vasamsetti, 22, of Seattle and a supporter of Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, watches televised coverage of the US presidential election at the Comet Tavern in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Seattle, Washington on November 8, 2016. / AFP / Jason Redmond (Photo credit should read JASON REDMOND/AFP/Getty Images)
Source: JASON REDMOND/AFP/Getty Images

Election night has caught everyone by surprise. Pollsters are in shock as results continue to come down to the wire, leaning more and more towards a Donald Trump victory. Many are wondering if there's still a chance of victory for Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. Can Clinton win if she wins the popular vote? Unfortunately, it all comes down to the electoral college. As of this writing, Trump has slightly over 1 million overall votes than Clinton. Not every state has fully tallied and reported its ballots, however, so more populous states like California could move Clinton ahead.

However, a popular vote is not what determines the results of an election but rather the electoral college. Four times in the nation's history, presidents have been elected thanks to the electoral college and nothing else. What that means is candidates garnered the 270 out of 538 votes needed to win despite not receiving the most overall votes. The electoral college was put in place to give states a larger opportunity to be heard no matter how populous, though population certainly factors into the amount of electoral votes allocated. For instance, California boasts a massive 55 electoral votes given its size, while Delaware has just three. Those cumulative electoral votes ultimately decide everything.

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If neither candidate receives the requisite 270 electoral votes to nab the presidency, the vote falls on the House of Representatives, whose members receive one vote to cast per rep. Given the fact that the GOP has a majority and will thus maintain control of the House, it's highly likely that even if it were to come down to a House vote, that vote would skew towards Trump. Yet again, that result would have little to do with whether Clinton had edged out Trump to win the popular vote.

During the final presidential debate and throughout her candidacy, Clinton has made it clear that she will adhere to the tradition of a peaceful transition of power, refusing to contest the election even if it doesn't favor her. And yet Trump had an incredibly difficult time committing to respecting the results of the election if he didn't win. Somehow that unpresidential sentiment did little to deter voters from electing someone else. In fact, it may have emboldened them. If Clinton can't win the electoral college, there's simply no hope that she will be elected president whether she wins the popular vote or not.

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