There is no denying that there are many shocked people about Donald Trump being President of the United States.
One thing that is somehow comforting many Americans is that Hilary Clinton was actually voted by more people than Trump. With a parliamentary system where members are elected to represent a particular area, having an accurate translation of this into seats does not always happens. In Australia we also had issues in this. In the 1998 election the ALP got 50.98% of the vote compared to the Coalition 49.2%, but ended up losing the election with the Coalition ending up with 54.05% of the seats compared with the ALP 45.27% .
In the USA this is further complicated by the electoral college system where “electors” are those who pledge beforehand to vote for the candidate of a particular party.
In the aftermath of the Trump victory, there have been recriminations that the other two candidates Jill Stein and Gary Johnson lost Clinton the election.
Congrats third party voters – you literally sent no message to anyone and you’re helping Trump win Florida -even though you didn’t want him.
— Jen Nasty Kirkwoman (@JenKirkman) November 9, 2016
This election is going to have consequences that potentially last decades. THAT’S why people are angry about your third party vote.
— Alexandra Bracken (@alexbracken) November 9, 2016
According to articles by CNN and Mic if half (or more) of third-party voters in the key states of Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin had just picked Clinton instead of Johnson or Stein, she would have won.
So what if the USA had an Australian style preferential system, could have Clinton won those states? Before looking at this it has to be noted that in Australia no candidate gets 100% of the preferences. Antony Green shows in his website that in 2016 Green preferences flowed 81.94% to the ALP and 18.06% to the Coalition.
So if we had a similar trend in the State of Florida and assume that 82% of preferences went to Clinton she would have received 52,495 extra votes. Which would mean a total of 4,538,240 which would have not won over Trump. The issue here is how many preferences would have gone from the much higher vote of Johnson. The Libertarian Party is a mix bags of abolishing the welfare state completely but allowing abortion and decriminalising drug use, so who knows where conservatives would have placed a second preference. Clinton would have needed more than 67,275 preferences from Johnson voters which 32.6% of those voters, and that’s not outside the realm of possibility. But but with preferential voting Johnson’s voters would also give preferences to Trump. So it would all depend on that.
In Michigan if Clinton got 82% of the Stein preferences she would have got 41,562 extra votes giving her a total of 2,308,935. Include some preferences from Johnson votes I think she would might have been home and hosed here.
Using the same criteria Clinton would have received 40,108 extra votes bringing her to 2,884,816 which would not have helped her. She would have needed more than 28,125 from Johnson voters which is not outside the realm of possibility, but again with preferential voting Johnson’s voters would also give preferences to Trump. I can’t see that preferential voting would have got Clinton the state here.
Here the 82% flow of Stein preferences to Clinton would have got her 25,404 extra votes, taking her to 1,407,616, just under Trump. In this case the Johnson’s voters preferences would have decided who would win the state.
So could have Clinton won?
I am no psephologist. These are really back of an envelope calculations. But I hope they can demonstrate that preferential voting can affect the outcome of an election.
Whatever the result, the benefit of preferential voting is that no vote is wasted. Votes for Stein and Johnson were disregarded, while with preferential voting even those voters have an influence on the outcome.