How the U.S. Elects its U.S President – And How This Guides Our Campaign Approach

How the U.S. Elects its U.S President – And How This Guides Our Campaign Approach

In 2016, Hillary Clinton had about three million more votes than Trump. But she lost the election by a rather lopsided 74 electoral votes, 306 to 232. And it’s electoral votes that decide who becomes President, not the country’s popular vote! In a nutshell, each state has a certain number of electoral votes based on its population size, and most states award ALL their electoral votes based on their majority vote on that first Tuesday in November. For example, if Pennsylvania voters vote 51 to 49% in favor of the Republican candidate, ALL of Pennsylvania’s 20 electoral votes go to the Republican candidate. Please see this Wikipedia discussion if you want further details.1.

Whether a majority of a state’s population votes for the Republican or Democratic candidate is key in the Presidential race for electoral votes. Certain states have consistently voted Republican—for example, Texas and Alabama in the last 10 elections. Likewise, California and New York have consistently voted Democratic in the last seven elections.2 Let’s call these “one party DNA” states. Trying to change the popular vote from Donald Trump in states like Texas and Alabama is not an effective use of one’s available campaign hours. This is particularly true where current state polls indicate continued one party DNA support. The same concept also holds true in states like New York or California, where strong Democratic one party DNA effectively means Trump has no chance of winning the popular vote in those two states. Spending the majority of one’s campaign time focusing on California or New York will not really change an already foregone conclusion of non-Trump support!

We’ve reviewed the states that voted Republican in 2016 that do not have a one party DNA and have significant electoral votes.2 We identified five key states to focus our collective campaign election energy on. See the chart below. You will see:

  1. The five states controlled 90 electoral votes in the 2016 election,
  2. The state popular vote was close or very close in the 2016 election, and
  3. Their state DNA is not strongly Republican, as they voted Democratic at least once in the last four elections.

Key Election chart (if viewing on a smartphone, swipe left to see remaining chart):

Remember we only have to gain 38 electoral votes in the five key states from the 2016 results shown below, to win the 2020 election, (306-38=268; 232+38=270 needed to win). If the other 45 state popular vote results remain the same as in 2016, winning Florida and any one of the other four states would reach the 38-vote switch, for example.

The 2016 results1:
2016 Election Results

We will also be watching certain 2016 Republican-voting states, such as Arizona, that look like they might flip in 2020. It’s interesting that 2 key states were chosen to host the nominating conventions: the Democrats in Wisconsin, the Republicans in North Carolina.

Our linked ‘Quick & Easy’ Voter Registration and Voting Guide contains a specific discussion of each of the five key state’s rules. This makes it easy for each of us to not only register if you haven’t done so, but to consider the use of absentee ballots and early voting (where allowed) to ensure our votes will be counted.

The non-profit contains a lot of useful voter information. At the bottom of this page are links to each state’s absentee ballot application. Seventeen states require voters to provide an excuse for voting by absentee ballot.

Covid-19 impact means rules changing constantly.

Check to see if you are registered to vote at the bottom of

Polling place locator by state at the bottom of

2 See support for these details on maps found under the Presidents tab/Historical Elections, on this very interesting website.
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