Unpopular vote

President Samuel J. Tilden. Ring a bell? Probably not since he lost. Tilden was the first of four presidential candidates in American history to fall victim to the Electoral College, winning the popular vote but losing where it counts, in the state-level vote that determines the election winner.

Tilden lost to Rutherford B. Hayes in 1876, coming up one vote shy of the needed 185 electoral votes. Twelve years later, Benjamin Harrison defeated President Grover Cleveland, despite the incumbent winning the popular vote. Five score and twelve years after that, Al Gore, who won the popular vote, conceded the election to George W. Bush. And this year, Hillary Clinton became the fourth nominee to win the most votes nationally only to be done in by the Electoral College.

After each of the three previous episodes, there was – as there is now with the fourth one – fierce debate over the role the Electoral College plays in electing presidents. (Interestingly, all four of those who lost were Democrats.)

There’s rarely much talk about the Electoral College after elections because 40 of what will soon be 45 presidents have won both the popular vote and the Electoral College. (John Quincy Adams lost the popular vote but was elected by the House of Representatives but that’s a whole different mess.) In 2012, when it appeared ever so briefly that Mitt Romney may have been the people’s choice, Donald Trump tweeted out: “The electoral college is a disaster for a democracy.” Not surprisingly, Trump is suddenly now a big supporter of the 18th century creation designed to level the playing field between the populous North and rural South.

But in the aftermath of Trump’s stunning victory, in addition to the protests around the country, many are giving voice to the argument that it’s time to change the the process for electing the president to one person, one vote. Some are even putting pressure on Electoral College voters to cast their lot with Clinton as the popular victor when they meet in December. Good luck with that.

Nearly every state requires presidential nominees to file a slate of electors who are, technically,  the people voters actually choose when casting their ballots. Most states also require their electors to vote for the winner of that state’s popular vote and have civil, though not criminal, penalties for so-called “faithless electors” who deviate from that.

Clinton has a 700,000-vote margin right now and with some ballots still to be counted in California, which she carried by more than 2-1, could wind up with a 1-million vote margin of popular vote victory. But even though she racked up big margins in densely populated east and west coast states, she still only carried 19 states totaling 228 electoral votes. (With some strategic vote shifts involving fewer than 54,000 ballots, she actually could have reversed the Electoral College result.)

Former governor Michael Dukakis, one of only two Democratic nominees along with John Kerry to lose both the popular vote and the Electoral College since 1988, says the “anachronistic Electoral College system should have been abolished 150 years ago.”

Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, the hindsight nominee of the Democratic Party, is another calling for the abolition of the Electoral College.

“We may want to take a look at the whole Electoral College, which is seating a man for president who didn’t get the most votes,” he said. “This is something we need a serious discussion on.”

There is little chance, at least in the foreseeable future, of passing a constitutional amendment and getting ratification of 37 states to change the system. An effort called the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact is attempting what many call a constitutional end-run where states pledge their electors to the national popular vote winner.

Under the plan, which requires approval by legislatures, each state that has passed the measure would cast their Electoral College votes with the winner but not until there are enough states signed on to hit the magic number of 270.

To date, only 10 states, including Massachusetts, and the District of Columbia have signed onto the pact, representing 165 electoral votes, about 60 percent of what would be needed. All 11 voted for the same candidate in the election. You’ve got two guesses to pick which one. With Republicans controlling most of the legislatures and governors’ offices of those states not in the compact, don’t bet the mortgage money on that changing soon. Even then, there will be no shortage of legal challenges to the constitutionality.

In the meantime, Clinton can comfort herself with the words of almost-President Tilden.

“I can retire to private life with the consciousness that I shall receive from posterity the credit of having been elected to the highest position in the gift of the people, without any of the cares and responsibilities of the office.”



Renee Loth applauds Boston and 10 other Massachusetts communities that passed Community Preservation Act surcharges on their property tax bills last week. (Boston Globe)

A Herald editorial warns against Boston using the new revenue stream to set up a costly new bureaucracy — the law allows up to 5 percent of CPA funds to go for administration.

City Councilor Tito Jackson wants Boston to become a sanctuary city that protects undocumented immigrants. (Boston Herald)

Several Brockton city councilors say Mayor Bill Carpenter should have paid for a course on Cape Verdean Creole language himself rather than charge the city, part of a review of questionable payments the council is studying. (The Enterprise)

Revere turns away from gambling and it tries to redefine its image and development priorities. (Boston Globe)


A powerful earthquake measuring a 7.8 magnitude followed by one that measured 6.4 magnitude shook New Zealand and triggered tsunami waves in the area. (New York Times)


60 Minutes interviews Donald Trump.

Trump says he wants to deport 2 to 3 million undocumented immigrants, but says parts of the Great Wall on the Mexican border could be a fence. (Boston Globe)

Trump names GOP chief Reince Priebus his chief of staff and far-right media executive Stephen Bannon, whose Breitbart News is known for publishing white nationalist messages, his chief strategist. (Associated Press, Washington Post) The New Republic’s Brian Beutler says Trump is already showing signs of authoritarianism. The National Review urges Trump to name as secretary state conservative firebrand John Bolton, who also happens to be a member of the National Review Institute.

Columbia University professor Jeffrey Sachs says making good on his vow to rebuild the country’s crumbling infrastructure would be one good move Trump could make for the benefit of the whole country. (Boston Globe)

As happened across the country, Trump made gains in Massachusetts in typically Democratic-leaning communities with less educated whites, while Hillary Clinton ran stronger than past Democrats in wealthier suburbs with more educated voters. (Boston Globe)

Trump didn’t win the working-class vote as much as he divided it with Clinton. (Boston Globe)

Remember all those pre-election stories about how the GOP will be splintered and headless in search of direction? Substitute “Democrat” for “Republican” and you have the new narrative. (U.S. News & World Report)

Comedian Wanda Sykes gets booed at the TD Garden at a comedy benefit over the weekend when she says Trump’s victory is not the first time “we’ve elected a racist, sexist, homophobic president.” (Boston Herald)

No joke: Joe Fitzgerald urges abolition of the First Amendment, or something. (Boston Herald)

New Hampshire Senator-elect Maggie Hassan says she will try to find common ground with the majority GOP in Congress, but will stand up to Donald Trump and Republicans when needed. (Associated Press)

Steve Kerrigan gains the support of Attorney General Maura Healey and Senate President Stan Rosenberg in his bid to become head of the state Democratic Party. (MassLive)


Trucks carrying dirt in central Massachusetts routinely violate rules on weight limits. (Telegram & Gazette)


Charter backers get schooled: What happened in the campaign for Question 2 — and what’s next for efforts to address students in low-performing district schools? (CommonWealth) The pro-charter question fared no better in largely minority neighborhoods of Boston, where proponents expected it would run strongest. (Boston Globe)


A study by researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital finds that even those with genetic heart disease can lower risks by healthy eating and living habits. (New York Times)

David B. Waters of Community Servings says good health goes beyond health care. (CommonWealth)


Union Station in Worcester has sprung a lot of leaks, which could be costly to repair. (Telegram & Gazette)


As of today, commercial fishermen are banned from the newly designated Marine National Monument, a Connecticut-size stretch of ocean off the coast of southern New England. (Gloucester Times)

Watchdogs of Pilgrim nuclear power plant in Plymouth are eyeing Entergy’s decision to sell its Vermont Yankee plant to a cleanup specialist that will result in the dismantling of the facility 45 years sooner than planned, hopeful the same will happen here. (Cape Cod Times)

Work is set to begin on removing an earthen dam in Norwell dating to colonial times to enable a brook where herring spawn to connect to the North River and flow freely for the first time in centuries. (Patriot Ledger)


Unsealed medical records show that the condition of former House speaker Sal DiMasi, who is suffering from cancer, is deteriorating as he awaits word on a petition for compassionate release from federal prison. (Boston Herald)

An assistant district attorney on Martha’s Vineyard is facing disciplinary charges in connection with her handling of three cases. (The Eye)


The Wall Street Journal is trying to cope with a 21 percent decrease in advertising revenue in the most recent quarter. (Nieman Journalism Lab)

Donald Trump’s election has spawned an increase in donations to nonprofit news organizations. (Washington Post)


Leon Russell, a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, dies at 74. (People)