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Representation and the Electoral College$
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Robert M. Alexander

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780190939427

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: April 2019

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190939427.001.0001

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The Popular Vote and Misfires in the Electoral College

The Popular Vote and Misfires in the Electoral College

(p.93) 5 The Popular Vote and Misfires in the Electoral College
Representation and the Electoral College

Robert M. Alexander

Oxford University Press

This chapter examines the relationship among the electoral vote, the popular vote, and legitimacy in presidential elections. The Framers sought a process that preserved federalism and yielded candidates with broad appeal across the country. Forty percent of all presidential contests can be classified as hairbreadth elections (decided by less than 75,000 votes). Twenty percent of all elections have been decided by just 10,000 votes. On six occasions, the candidate winning the popular vote failed to win the Electoral College vote. These so-called misfire elections have occurred in two of the last five campaigns and have the potential to occur with greater frequency given changing demographics. The divergence between the Electoral College vote and the popular vote represents a potential challenge to legitimacy for incoming presidents. Specific attention is devoted to how misfire elections may have affected the agenda of incoming presidents.

Keywords:   misfire elections, hairbreadth elections, popular vote, presidential mandate, 1824 election, 1876 election, 1888 election, 1960 election, 2000 election, presidential rankings

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