What's the largest popular vote possible without being elected President?

Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by about 1 million votes, but will not be our next President because of the way the Electoral college works.

Presumably her margin could have been even larger if voters in the states she won had ALL cast their votes for her, and if voters in Trump states just barely gave him a popular majority in those states.

So how big could a candidate’s margin theoretically be without her actually being elected President? Has the most extreme case been determined, i.e. which states would need to be won with 100% popular vote, and which states would need to be lost with a margin of 1 vote?

I don’t feel like digging up all of the numbers, but take all of the states in order of increasing population. Start at the low end, and add up the electoral votes until you get to 269. Lose with 50%-1 in those states, and then 100% of all of the rest.

There might be some edge effects in the middle there, if the next state would get you past 269, and you might be able to shuffle a few to avoid a surplus. But that’s the general idea.

About 78%. Fast forward to 6:30 seconds or so.

Since we’re dealing with theoreticals, another variable is voter turnout.

Imagine one candidate receiving 100% of the vote in states worth 268 EVs, and voter turnout being 100%. Imagine the other candidate receiving “50% plus one” of the vote in states worth 270 EVs, and voter turnout being minimal – to the extreme, imagine the winner receiving 2 votes in a state, and the loser receiving 1 vote.

If you win California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Texas you get 273 votes. So, take out Georgia or Michigan (16 votes each), and add Washington (12 votes), and you have 269 votes.

So, the maximum losing vote would be 100% of those states and 49.9% of the other states – with 100% voter turnout in every state.

There isn’t a satisfactory answer to this question. Since voter turnout, and indeed voter eligibility, varies in each state, there is no minimum number of votes that is necessary to win a state. If only one person votes in California, then that state’s 55 electors all go to that candidate. If you repeat that across, New Jersey, North Carolina, Georgia, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Florida, New York, and Texas, 11 voters will have decided who the next president will be.

The total population as of 2010 of the remaining states is about 133,000,000. Nationwide, roughly 68.3% are estimated to be voting age, and but about 10% of those are disqualified because they are non-citizens or ineligible to vote in their states die to felony convictions. If we assume that the voting age population and ineligible voters are evenly distributed across the country (they aren’t) we would get roughly 91 million eligible voters in the remaining states. If they were universally opposed to the candidate chosen in the 11 largest states, we would have a person elected by 0.000012% of the popular vote.

I think Chronos’ approach is right. Mathematically, you should start with the least populous states and work up to 270 electoral votes. This is due to each state having a minimum of three electoral votes regardless of how small it is.

No, because of the turnout effects I discuss in my post and which others caught onto as well. You are starting with the assumption of uniform turnout across the states. That doesn’t reflect reality. Since our hypothetical is aiming for the most extreme scenario, we shouldn’t make that assumption.

If you start with the smallest states, you need to win basically the all of the smallest 41 states. If you have one voter in each, 41 popular votes determine the election. In fact, since Nebraska and Maine vote by district, you probably need at least one vote in each district to win those two states, so you need 3 votes Nebraska and 2 votes in Maine, or 44 popular votes to win all the smallest states necessary to get 269 electoral votes. If the remainder of the voters in the remaining states are united against that candidate, you would have roughly 104 million votes cast against the candidate (estimating for voting age population and eligibility). That means the winning candidate would have roughly won the election with a popular vote of 44/104 million, or 0.000040%. That’s less lopsided than just winning the biggest 11 states with one popular vote each.

Giles lists nine States to win, each State only has one voter … 9 popular votes wins the election … add up the total voter eligible populations in the other 41 States and we’ll have our answer …

Also, if the states you lose have a multiway split of the vote - you could come in third in a 3-way race in each of the states you lose (or 10 of 10) and sweep the states you win. And of course, if nobody gets 269 votes, you could have a massive amount of votes but lose when the presidential choice goes to congress.

Well, the OP wanted maximum theoretical margin, so you could assume 100% turnout in the states going to the popular vote winner/EC loser and just one vote in the states going to the PV loser/EC winner.

We don’t want the minimum votes for the winner (which would be achieved by a turnout of 1 in each of the largest states); we want the maximum votes for the loser, which means 100% turnout in every state. Or, if we want to maximize the margin, 100% turnout in the high-population states which the loser won, and turnout in the low-population states doesn’t matter at all, because the margin is going to be 1 each in each of them, regardless of turnout.

EDIT: Oh, and you might also be able to monkey around with Maine and Nebraska districts, especially if you want to fine-tune to 269. I think that they actually end up being more biased than the big states, because they don’t have the “senator” electors attached to them at all.

The other problem with the Electoral College is not true disenfranchisement, but practical disenfranchisement.

I live in New York. If I don’t vote, who gives a fuck? Yes, down ticket votes are important and participation is important and I vote, but Hillary was going to win New York. No matter what. Same with California and Texas was a slam dunk for Trump.

The Electoral College was a product of great thinkers of their time, made to unite a group of independent colonies into the United States of America (fuck yeah!) in the 18th Century. They also implemented a system to change the United States Constitution, because these guys were so fucking smart that they grasped the concept of change.

It’s too bad that we as a country are so unwilling to embrace that concept.

Let’s not exaggerate: the U.S. Constitution was amended 12 times in the 20th century.

It will never be amended again, of course. Any amendment favors (or would be perceived as favoring) one side in our hyper-polarized political environment, so can never get the supermajorities required.

Complete demolition of all mass communication infrastructure might restore rationality and allow political progress; other than that I have nothing to suggest.

Well, you’re right in the thread title the OP says maximum number. But in the last paragraph the OP refers to biggest margin.

Which I addressed in the second sentence of my post. 100% turnout is consistent with either.

Yes, if margin is expressed as the difference in the popular vote, but not if it is expressed as the percentage difference.

“Largest possible vote” is not dependent on turnout. Possible voters are those who meet the state’s minimum requirement for voter eligibility.
But each state’s requirements would need to be factored individually, since most arbitrarily disenfranchise some, who would be eigible in other states…

True, but the OP expressed the margin as “one million votes”, so presumably the first is what she was looking for (I think Machine Elf is a she, right?)

But again - if the candidate won as described, assuming 100% turnout everywhere, all the larger states with 100%, then say 50%-1 votes in the other states, but lost to a different opponent in each state, so that she and 2 other candidates (winners of Michigan and Georgia) went to the congress and they picked one of the other two - the vote differential, even with 100% turnout, would be 100% of the states she won, plus 49.99% of every other state. And the president chosen would have gotten only the votes of 50%+1 of Georgia or Michigan, whichever state he won, and nothing else. So, the differential between her and the next best candidate would be huuuuuge.