Popular Vote: We Still Don’t Know Who Won

This year, Google has a live results page for the presidential elections.  They’re reporting 100% of the results are counted in most states, and give a definitive result.  So does Politico, and so does CNN.  Each of the three draws their data from the Associated Press.

And all three disagree.

Why Does It Matter?

It’s November 13th, five days after the election.  The simple fact of the matter is, we haven’t got a clue who won the popular vote and we won’t know for sure until the 19th of December.  That’s the final deadline for states to submit their certified vote counts to Congress and their own chosen electors.  In the mean while, all we’ve got is some hit-and-miss patchwork journalism, because — let’s face it; we know who won the election, and a few votes one way or the other don’t make any real difference.

It’s the Electoral College that decides our elections, and while the decisions of the electors are dictated by the popular vote in their own states (and for Maine and Nebraska, their own districts), the winners state by state aren’t in much doubt.  New Hampshire and Michigan are each too close to call and are going into recount mode, but again, those two states are almost immaterial given the large margin of Trump’s victory.

But, in the five days since the election, we’ve seen four days of protests.  Most are people angry with the way things turned out because they feel their votes were unimportant, undervalued, and in many cases uncounted.  The present implementation of the Electoral College is widely perceived to lead to disenfranchisement, and critics point to the difference between the winner of the popular vote and the electoral to support their case.

Except this year, like every other year, we won’t actually know who won the popular vote until seven weeks after the election.

Why Would We Need To Know?

Right now, due to the razor-thin difference between the vote totals, a lot of people — particularly Democrats — feel that the Electoral College is an outdated, outmoded system and that it ought to be abolished, replaced by a straight count of the popular vote.  As I’ve written elsewhere, there’s some validity to their arguments, but the problems created by such a system could well be horrific.  For one thing, uncertainty over the final result would be very likely to multiply the present unrest a hundredfold.

But several of the states that lean the most heavily Democrat have embraced policies that make rapid vote counting impracticable, even impossible.  California, one of the most extreme, encourages mail-in ballots for the majority of voters, and it accepts them up to three days following the election.  Some states rely almost completely on mailed ballots; in others, precincts mail them uncounted to the state house.  As a result, the totals won’t be known for quite some time.

Why Can’t This Be Fixed?

It’s strange but true:  Both major parties profit by the present system.  The Republicans enjoy a marginal advantage in electoral power in the rural states, and the Democrats control the electors of millions of Republicans in several urban states.  As well, the pluralistic model makes any third-party candidacy unlikely of success.  And, finally, in event of a loss, the loser can always complain about the unfairness of the system — as though both parties hadn’t worked together to create it.

So When Will We Know?

On December 19th, the information will become available, a matter of public record.  Until then, it’ll drift in gradually as states certify their results one by one, most by the ‘soft deadline’ of the 13th.  Some will report the numbers to the press, but most producers won’t consider it newsworthy — so they won’t publish it even if it makes a difference.  Instead, we’ll hear stories about spin and opinion and reaction.

But the news media generates the news; in a situation like this, it can actually create events.  Inaccurate news stories about the narrow vote margin are leading to protests over the perceived inequity, all notwithstanding the actual fact, which is that we just plain don’t know.  Except… well, “We Just Don’t Know” isn’t much of a headline.

What we have here, in fact, is a prime example of people preferring entertainment or even rank falsehood over uncomfortable truth, and a news media that is eager to pander to the desires of their customers.

But What Do We Know Right Now?

New Hampshire and Michigan are each too close, and Maine’s Second District may also draw a recount.  None of that can actually impact who won the overall election, which is statistically certain.  That’s the electoral part.

As for the individual votes, the most reliable numbers I can find are:
D 60,563,316 R 60,123,187 Other 6,463,651  (13Nov AM)
D 61,337,682 R 60,582,159 Other 6,684,742  (13Nov, midnight)
D 60045289 R 59301459 (14Nov, 3PM)
D 60329836 R 59437727 (14 Nov, Midnight)
D 60352539 R 59446487 (15 Nov, 3PM)
D 60427890 R 59548690 (15 Nov, Midnight)
D 60532842 R 59640285 (16 Nov 6PM)
D 61037123 R 59908407 (18 Nov 2AM)
D 61086178 R 59949539 (18 Nov 11PM)
D 61256684 R 60125146 (20 Nov 3AM)
D 62490930 R 60709110 (24 Nov 12:30AM)
D 62524016 R 60736414 (24 Nov evening)
D62681591 R 60788497 (26 Nov evening)
D 62821692 R 60902759 (27 Nov)
D 62825353 R 60907364 (27 Nov evening)
D 63411086 R 61111197 (01 Dec 9:45PM)
D 63727804 R 61303728 (08 Dec 1AM)
D 65814204 R 62957570 (18 Dec, Sunday)

And this is with an estimated 2,470,000 ballots either uncounted, provisional, or disputed.  Many of these are absentee, which historically have tended to swing Republican; however, given the large number still uncounted from strongly Democrat states this year, it truly could go either way.  All we know for sure is that there’s no real chance mailed ballots could change the electoral result this time around outside of those areas which are relatively close.

Keep checking this post; I’ll keep revising the numbers.

EDIT:  No recount is required in either Michigan or New Hampshire at present.  The totals may change slightly between now and Certification Day, however, as absentee ballots, particularly overseas, continue to trickle in, and this could trigger a recount.  As of this update, Michigan has not updated their totals since Thursday, indicating that any remaining counting will be continued after the holiday weekend.  New Hampshire has not published any updates since 08 November, but there is a significant percentage of ballots outstanding, including all write-ins.  Maine 2nd is slightly revised but consistent.  California is almost entirely counted but the totals are unofficial.  Utah, Nevada, and Arizona may all see significant changes.  No state apart from Michigan or New Hampshire has any real probability of changing electorally.  13Nov Midnight.

1AM:  Several hundred ballots in Michigan have been declared invalid; this is just the normal stuff, though.  Totals have shifted down for all candidates; it’s pretty proportional.

2PM:  Colorado has adjusted their totals following the 12Nov deadline for unofficial results.  About a 5% difference.  Florida finalizes on the 20th (or a day or two after) and Iowa waits until 5Dec.  Maine has pulled down their unofficial count, so we actually don’t know about the second district and probably won’t until they release official results.  Townships, largely in Hancock and Franklin Counties, still have not reported.  Nevada’s Canvass will be completed on Friday 18Nov.  Ohio won’t report until 29Nov, and those numbers are expected to change a fair amount.

Midnight:  A few non-swing states have completed their first unofficial canvass.  Some votes were declared invalid; some write-ins for the major candidates were added to the totals.  Interesting bit of trivia:  Illinois, home of the infamous voting Chicago cemeteries, doesn’t provide centralized data.  Some precincts, you actually have to call and give the password.  (Just kidding; there’s no password.)

3PM:  Massachusetts is working on their statutory hand recount, and town offices all across the state are closed today for non-audit business.  Presuming no widespread irregularity, the Commonwealth should be prepared to certify their results in the next few days — which is a good thing, because the rest of their process is about as non-transparent as possible.  Local precincts and clerks, however, are delighted to share information if you call them, I’ve found — just not today, because they’re kinda busy.  Mississippi will still be determining whether affidavit ballots are acceptable for those who didn’t have voter IDs; people have until tomorrow to identify themselves in some way or another.  (Certified results are due Friday.)  And Maryland is now complete and also about to certify.  There are a few other states going through the same process; Alaska and Maine, for example, still have entire precincts not reporting, and there’s some interesting news coming out of Arizona and Utah.

5PM:  The state of Oregon is still only about 95% reporting.  Civil unrest would appear to be interfering in the counting process.  Stop and think about that for a moment, if you will:  Protests against the results of the election are interfering with us getting the results of the election.  If the popular vote total actually mattered, this would be a horrific happening — but, thank God, it doesn’t impact the transfer of power.

Midnight:  Looks like Vermont has posted official results.  Bernie Sanders polled nearly 20,000 write-in votes.  By comparison, Vermin Supreme took 10, Clinton almost 180,000 (up precisely 1 from election night), and Trump about 95,000.  Greens and Libertarians combined took fewer votes than Bernie Sanders.  Oklahoma is due to post official results today as well, but their website is refusing to update — which I for one find vexing.  But West Virginia thus far takes the prize; their official state website shows only eight counties have informally reported any results.  Only Maine is less helpful.

1AM:  Just got my hands on California’s most recent unprocessed ballots report.  It shows over 4 million votes uncounted.  However, many of the numbers on it are seriously out of date, in particular Los Angeles county with more than a million — from the end of last week.  The actual number is probably closer to the official SoS website, which estimates it at just over one million.

6PM:  About half of the swing states are pretty stubborn about not reporting results during the counting process.  This is a good thing; we don’t want protesters rushing to the Bubba-Bob County Courthouse in order to disrupt the canvassing (and you know they would).  On the other hand, it’s pretty frustrating for those of us who are still keeping track.  Arizona and Colorado have each put out some updated totals, however.

2AM Friday the 18th:  Looks like Vermont is still the only state with final results.  California’s cities have posted nearly a million additional votes, which has increased Clinton’s lead for the moment to over one million; however, most “red states” are holding off until the actual date of certification.  Illinois is being incredibly secretive about the election process, rather more so in fact than most banana republics.  And most small states are having a lot of trouble with provisional and overseas ballots.  Overall, this is shaping up to be one of the highest voter turnout elections in our entire history.

11PM:  New Hampshire has added some write-ins, but has not finalized its results so the unofficial totals haven’t changed.  There appear to be grounds for a lawsuit recount on the write-ins; a lot of Mike Pence votes appearing.  Vermin Supreme polled 58 votes, which beats “Uncle Joe” Biden’s total of 55, and Bernie Sanders took almost 4500.  Before folks get too het up about that last, though, it should be mentioned that such figures as Kasich, Jeb Bush, and Evan McMullin totaled about the same.  Other states have about the same (3-5%) write-in ratio, which is much higher than last year’s.  Most don’t post detailed returns, but exit polls show Sanders with a convincing return across the board of over 1% — interestingly, defeating the Green Party ticket even though he wasn’t really running.  Voter turnout in swing states is nearly 70% on average, which is tremendous.

3AM Sunday the 20th:  Arizona is required by law to hand-count ballots to ensure the machines are doing a good job.  Due to time constraints and a shortage of personnel, the hand-counts were cut short in a number of counties.  Likewise, the massive quantity of early and mail-in votes overwhelmed the offices.  Representatives of both major parties signed off on limited recounts — and I’m sure they did their best — but the fact remains that there’s no way at all to be sure the final results coming out of Arizona are accurate beyond one percent or so.  And this situation is by no means unique to the Copper State; similar reports are coming from precincts across the country, especially in areas of high voter turnout.  (Arizona was about 75%, not counting the recent dead who didn’t vote and any long-dead who did.)  Pennsylvania is having some sort of widespread problem with the count; Lord only knows what’s going on in specific, but it seems to be impacting about .05% of the vote across the board.

Midnight, before Thanksgiving (Nov 24):  Several states have semi-officially given totals; several haven’t.  California just released 1.5m more votes, 2/3 for Clinton, but they still have 1.5m more left uncounted — and many of those won’t be available until the cutoff date on Dec. 8.  In truth, there’s a decent chance that some will never be counted officially; after all, nobody really cares.  Until this year, that is.  In other news, Kentucky and Virginia certified, Georgia is official, and we’re still waiting on final news out of New Hampshire — which is telling us nothing whatsoever about major party write-ins.  Wasserman is still out of date, and I think some of his numbers are semi-fictional.  North Carolina in particular is off by a large percentage from the NC SBE results site at this moment; looks like he transposed some digits for a 200k error.  Nevertheless, we’ve arrived at a place where, right now, it looks as though Clinton’s lead in California has grown sufficiently that she’ll defeat Trump in the popular vote overall.  Allegations of widespread illegal alien voting in California are not being pursued, merely made — which makes it at most substantiated gossip.

Evening, Nov 24:  Some few automatic updates, but most state offices were closed today.  More on the California illegals voting topic:  No statistic exists that makes this a significant number given the electoral college; at most, we’re talking 450,000 ballots, and that fails to take into consideration the high likelihood of people who fear deportation avoiding official government notice.  A more reasonable number appeared in a Breitbart article — around 160,000 ballots may have been mailed to illegal aliens who are permanent registered homeowner residents.  Speaking for myself, to me this instead begs the question:  Why are we forbidding 160,000 taxpaying homeowners to become income taxpaying citizens?  Nationwide, we’re looking at a probable total of around 1.2 million illegal resident aliens who might possibly have voted, but it’s particularly likely in California and highly unlikely in, for instance, Mississippi.  As a national issue, we’re mainly looking at California and New York, and there’s no plausible math that places the overall total of illegals who voted over about 700,000 — and a tenth that is more probable.  Compared to acknowledged voter fraud, itself a small number, it’s potentially problematic — but compared to the number of people who filled out their ballots incorrectly, thereby voiding them, it’s hardly worth considering.

Evening, Sat the 26th:  Oregon’s still only about 97% in.  There’s no question about how the state will swing, mind.  Oklahoma has finalized their temporary results — there seem to be some silent precincts, but perhaps that’s just a reporting error.  California, New York, and Texas have all made some progress (though the Texas totals, strangely, haven’t changed for over a week, and New York hasn’t shifted more than a couple of votes since the 10th).

Sun 27th:  Several more states finalized yesterday.  On the other hand, some states took down their preliminary data without updating the official results.  Wyoming finalized; 6900 write-ins, which aren’t enumerated for us — but unofficially, we’re told more than half went to Bernie Sanders.  Wisconsin is coming down pending the recount; reporting there is county-by-county — and, despite reports to the contrary, there’s been no official adjustment in Clinton’s favor pre-recount.  The AP’s estimate changed, but that’s all.  You’ll know more when I do, but it could take some time.

Thursday Dec 1st:  We had several states finalize this week, and one or two actually certified and published the final counts.  (Most of the totals changed very little, which is the main reason there’s been fewer updates here.)  There’s others that are still plugging away at the count, but not so many.  On the other hand, there’s recount questions going on in Michigan, Minnesota, and Pennsylvania, and those are likely to keep us guessing right down to the wire.

Thursday Dec 7th:  A lot of finalizations today and yesterday.  Oddly, Wasserman shows some three million more votes than I can track down, but our numbers mostly agree now that everything’s official.  I’m not sure where in his database these votes are coming from.

Sunday, 18 December.  Tomorrow, the Electors meet in the several states.  All states have certified and submitted their vote counts, and the last recount is finished or abandoned.  Given that, it’s rather odd that the ‘official’ counts as reported by the press still disagree with mine by several thousand, but there you have it:  The balloting and reporting systems are unique for each state and district, and that’s something that would have to change before the popular vote ever outweighs the Electoral College.  We would require uniformity in resources and in opportunity.

There is still one electoral vote that’s uncertain in my book; the Maine second district, while fully reported, has not been summed officially on any state release.  We can do it ourselves and determine that the floating vote went to Mr. Trump, but the margin is so narrow that I for one would not feel entirely comfortable doing so without official blessing.

Closing Note:

We now know who won and why.  Donald Trump defeated Hillary Clinton by carrying enough close states, largely because the Clinton campaign underestimated the negative swing she earned from the disaffected Bernie Bros writing his name in.  She took the popular vote handily, but we are not now nor ever have we been living in a democracy, but a republic.

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