Election Day Blues

In her memoir of the 2016 election, What Happened, Hillary Clinton wrote about the Election Day, on page 378: “After twenty months…it all came down to this. All over the country, 136 million people were going to…make a decision that would shape the future of the country and the world.”

This was not accurate. Far less than one percent of that number—which counted, roughly, all voters—were going to make a decision that mattered. These were the swing voters in the handful of swing states who would constitute the plurality that awarded all electors in these states to one candidate, despite the closeness of the margin in these states.

In all states, all those who voted for the statewide runner-up would see their votes systematically discarded. In all states, all those above the one who established a plurality would see their votes disregarded. More than 60% of all votes would be given no practical weight.

Moreover, in 43 states the plurality was foreordained months before the election. No decisions made near the election day had any consequence in the non-swing states.

Only in the seven swing states—Minnesota, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Florida—were Election Day decisions relevant, and even in those states what mattered more were the machinations of turn-out encouragers and discouragers, including Internet bots, leaflet distributors, and disinforming phone calls. Far less than one percent of the actual voters truly made a decision that mattered.