And The Last Shall Be First

The four elections in which the President-Elect lost the popular vote are: 

1824 – Adams over Jackson 

Popular vote margin: 44,804 - favoring Jackon

Electoral College margin: 15 - favoring Jackon

*John Q. Adams received fewer electoral votes and fewer popular votes than Andrew Jackson, but, as outlined by the Constitution, when no candidate receives the majority of the Electoral College vote the decision is turned over to the House of Representatives. There, 13 state delegations voted for John Q. Adams, 7 for Jackson and 3 for Crawford. (

1876 – Hayes over Tilden

Popular vote margin: 264,292 - favoring Tilden

Electoral College margin: 1 - electing Hayes

1888 – Harrison over Cleveland

Popular vote margin: 100,456 - favoring Cleveland

Electoral College margin: 65 - electing Harrison 

2000 – Bush over Gore

Popular vote margin: 543,895 (the largest so far) - favoring Gore

Electoral College margin: 5 - electing Bush

*Note: Some sources also consider 1960 a contested election. Although most believe Kennedy won the popular vote and the electoral college, some believe that there exists an alternative result that puts Nixon on top in popular votes. However, this election is not as harshly contested as the above four.

It is only luck that has saved us from more situations like these where the White House is not delivered to the President-Elect. Statistics show that close elections possess a very high possibility of this distorted result. Several elections throughout the 19th and 20th centuries have been so close that a small difference in votes – a fraction of 1 percent of the national vote – would have presented a different winner. 

Election Year Shift Needed In Which States
1828 11,517 Ohio, Kentucky, New York, Louisiana, Indiana
1840 8,386 New York, Pennsylvania, Maine, New Jersey
1844 2,555 New York
1848 3,227 Georgia, Maryland, Delaware
1864 38,111 New York, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Oregon, Wisconsin, Maryland, Connecticut
1868 29,862 Pennsylvania, Indiana, North Carolina, Alabama, Connecticut, California, Nevada
1880 10,517 New York
1884 575 New York
1892 37,364  New York, Indiana, Wisconsin, New Jersey, California
1896 20,296 Indiana, Kentucky, California, Delaware, Oregon, West Virginia
1900 74,755 Ohio, Indiana, Kansas, Nebraska, Maryland, Utah, Wyoming
1908 75,041 Ohio, Missouri, Indiana, Kansas, Delaware, West Virginia, Montana, Maryland
1916 1,983 California
1948 29,294 California, Ohio, Illinois
1960 11,424 Illinois, Missouri, New Mexico, Hawaii, Nevada
1976 9,246 Hawaii, Ohio

*Information from Why the Electoral College is Bad for America, George C. Edwards III

Ignoring Your Vote

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Vague Values

Electoral Replacements

Electoral Tie

Favorite Son Effect

A Few States Wins

Constitutional Residence

State Size

Special Interests

Power of State Legislatures

Electoral College Table of Contents

July 13th 2009
Albatross of U.S. democracy
Indianapolis Star

FairVote research is cited in support of the National Popular Vote plan in Indiana, because "every vote cast for president should be equally important and equally coveted, whether it originates in California, Connecticut or Crawfordsville."

July 9th 2009
Winner-take-all can elect a second-place president
San Diego Union-Tribune

The founder of National Popular Vote lays out the shortcomings and injustices of the Electoral College system, and shows why the National Popular Vote plan is the right solution.

May 17th 2009
Why states should adopt the National Popular Vote plan for president
San Diego Union-Tribune

FairVote's Rob Richie writes that the Electoral College deepens political inequality, and explains why the National Popular Vote plan is our best opportunity to ensure that every vote for president is equally valued.

May 14th 2009
Let's Make Every Vote Count
The Nation

Katrina vanden Heuvel, editor of the Nation magazine, highlights FairVote's research in an important piece on the "broad support" growing in the states for the National Popular Vote plan to elect the president.

May 13th 2009
Representative Democracy: Two Steps Forward
The Daily Herald

The executive director of the Economic Opportunity Institute heralds the passage of the National Popular Vote bill in Washington state.

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