For 5 years I was the pastor of Trinity International Church in Strasbourg, France. I created this blog with those people in mind. In mid-November 2018 I will become the Senior Pastor of Word of Life Church in Coon Rapids, Minnesota. The focus of this blog will therefore shift, but I pray that people from the blogosphere will continue to find it helpful wherever they might be found.
The churches' websites includes recorded sermons for those who are interested. Click the links below to access them.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

The Electoral College - It Makes Sense

Today Donald Trump won the presidency of the United States by being elected by the Electoral College. I am still getting questions about the US system so I thought I would right a brief blog about the system. It isn't all inclusive or exhaustive, but gives my thoughts about the electoral college system in the US, especially in light of the recent election. 

The Main Benefit of the Electoral College system

One of the reasons that the Electoral College system exists is to keep one part of the country from dominating the election. It forces those running to build a nationwide coalition of supporters which is a good thing for the overall country. At its inception, the former colonies, now states, wanted to make sure that the President represented a broad spectrum of of the states. They didn't want one or two states, even if they had a large population, to be able to elect the president all by themselves. So they devised the electoral college. Each state gets to send a certain number of delegates based on its population. It limits the influence of each state in the overall election process.

Think about France for a moment. Paris dominates the political landscape, but the country is much bigger than just Paris. An electoral college system would force politicians to win in other parts of the country as well as Paris in order to secure the presidency. The system would work to ensure that the President reflected the will of more of the country than simply Paris. It makes sense, and usually the person who wins the electoral college will also receive the most total votes.

How it works

In the US, each state gets a certain number of electors based on population. Win the state and you win those electors. There are a few states that divide the electors proportionally, but generally it is a winner-take all system for each state.

Win a majority of the votes in the electoral college and you win the election. The election is determined by winning the electoral college.

Those are the rules. And under those rules, Donald Trump clearly won the election.

But Secretary Clinton Got More Votes. She Should Be President!

This is the most common complaint I hear, both here in France, but also from Clinton supporters in the United States. Senator Clinton won the popular vote therefore she deserves to be president. But those weren't the rules of the contest. A popular election is a COMPLETELY different contest.

Let's compare it to a Grand Slam tennis match. You have to win three out of five sets. To win a set you need to win a minimum of six games and you must win by two games. To win a game, you must score at least four points and win by two points. Like them or not, those are the rules. If you compete, those are the rules.

Consider this scenario:

In the first set Donald Trump loses 6-0. When the first four games got 40-15 he decided to conserve his energy and in the final two games, he hardly tried figuring the set would go to Clinton. In the first set he manages to score a total of 4 points.

The same things happen in the second set. Clinton leads 2-0. Clinton smells victory

But then the conditions change. The sun goes behind a cloud and the wind picks up. These conditions favour Trump. Suddenly each game is close, but Trump wins each game by two points. He wins each set 6-0. 

Trump wins, 0-6, 0-6, 6-0, 6-0, 6-0. Even though Clinton won 84 points and Trump only won 76.

Fair? Yes. Because those were the rules, each player competed knowing the rules, and their strategy reflected the rules.

Not only that but...

No one knows what the outcome would be if the rules were different. Remember Trump "rested" in certain sets because he knew he could not win the set. He focused his energy on sets he could win because his goal was to win three sets. If the match was about winning the total number of points, he might have employed a different strategy. 

In the same way, candidate Trump did not focus much energy on California because there was no realistic way that he could win there. He basically chose not to even return serve in there. He conceded California's 55 electoral votes and focused elsewhere. Losing by a little or by a lot in California didn't matter. He was going to lose that set and he wasn't playing for a point total. He was playing to win the most sets.

And the vote differential in California was the vote differential in the national election. Had Trump needed to win the national vote, he might have used a different strategy in California. In fact, if you take away the two major states of California and New York, Trump won by three million votes, just like he scored more points in the final three sets of the tennis match. But the number of total votes or total points doesn't matter in either a Grand Slam or the U.S. Presidential election.

Or a different analogy

If tennis scoring is confusing, let's try basketball. The championship is a best of seven series. One team could win four games by games by 2 or 3 points each, and lose three games by 20 points each. They would still be the champions, even though they scored fewer points. The objective was to win four games, not score as many points as possible over seven games. Change the rules of the tournament, and both teams will play differently. You cannot say, "the loser really won because they scored more points".

So there is no way to tell what the outcome would have been in a "total national vote" election because that was't the game being played.

So Donald Trump won the game that was before the two candidates. And there is no way of knowing what the outcome would have been in a game with different rules.


The rules were set to force politicians to build a broad-based coalition that represented people from many parts of the country. Like having a House of Representatives and a Senate, the founders of the US sought to provide a mechanism that would help the Chief Executive to be a person that listened to a wide variety of people rather than the people of one or two heavily populated states. 

The system works.

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