Last update: 2017jan09
The way an American Presidential Election usually goes down nowadays is this: on the first Tuesday next after the first Monday in November of every fourth year, voters in the several States of the American Union- as well as in the District of Columbia- go to their local polling places and, while there, cast a vote for one of the National Tickets on the ballot, such a ticket containing- jointly- the names of two candidates: one for President and one for Vice President.
As the polls close in jurisdiction after jurisdiction throughout that night- beginning in the very early evening, Eastern Time (during the hour before Midnight UTC)- raw returns are reported, projections as to which presidential candidate has won in which States are made by the media and, at some point on Wednesday, the day immediately following General Election Day- if not in the wee hours of the morning on the East Coast, certainly sometime during that morning or no later than early afternoon- Americans will come to know who is elected to be their Nation's Chief Executive for the four years beginning the 20 January immediately following this Presidential Election at Noon Eastern Time (1700 UTC).
Come the Thursday morning immediately after Election Day, the major metropolitan morning dailies and other more national publications (such as, for example, USA Today) will usually be able to provide the reader with printed graphs, maps and charts (media-based websites will already have posted this data online during the day before) detailing how many Electoral Votes each National Ticket appears to have received and, in addition, there will be detailed analysis, based on the- by then, just about complete (albethey uncertified)- election returns from each State just how the winning presidential candidate actually so won...
the Electoral Vote that will be so widely reported in said publications (as well as online-- including, yes, on this very website) will, as implied by what is written above, only apparently be the breakdown of Presidential Electors for each National Ticket: for said Electors having been- more or less indirectly- "appointed" via the Popular Vote for each National Ticket in each State and D.C. will not even actually be meeting to cast their votes for President and Vice-President until some 41 days after Election Day itself! Therefore, to take one obvious example: there is no possible way to know, ahead of time, about whether or not there might end up being at least one so-called 'Faithless Elector' amongst all the Electors so recently "appointed" (there have been nine of these- each in a separate Presidential Election- since World War II) when those Thursday morning after Election Day papers go to press. (Thus, by the evening of Wednesday 3 November 2004 [as well as in the newspapers of the following morning- Thursday the 4th], the apparent Electoral Vote was reported as Bush 286-Kerry 252... but, once the Electors had voted on Monday 13 December 2004, Kerry ended up with one fewer Electoral Vote- 251 all told- because a Minnesota Elector [unknown to this day] had cast his or her presidential vote for Kerry's running mate, John Edwards-- and this result [Bush 286, Kerry 251, Edwards 1] was formally tabulated this way by Congress in Joint Session on Thursday 6 January 2005).
Earlier in the history of Presidential Elections, there were other sources of what might be fairly termed- if only in comparison to the more usual practice of today (in which the presidential candidate who wins more votes than any other presidential candidate in a given State- or D.C.- is treated as if he or she is to receive all the Electoral Votes from that jurisdiction)- "Electoral Vote anomalies". Nowadays, potential Presidential Electors are grouped together as a Party slate- in most cases, their individual names don't even appear on the ballot (the voter simply votes for the National Ticket of his or her choice and it counts as a vote for the slate of Electors of the Party which nominated that Ticket); even where the potential Electors' names might appear on the ballot, they generally cannot be chosen individually by the voter... but such was not always the case:
As late as 1960, for instance, the State of Alabama ended up with a split State "electoral college" simply because there were two separate slates of Presidential Electors for the Democratic Party in that year's Presidential Election- one committed to the Kennedy/Johnson ticket, the other an "unpledged" slate not so committed: since Elector candidates could, at the time, be chosen as individuals (thus, a voter in Alabama in 1960 could "mix and match" between Party slates- including Republican Elector candidates pledged to the Nixon/Lodge ticket- as he or she so chose [so long as he or she didn't vote for more than the number of Presidential Electors to which Alabama was then entitled- 11]), 6 "unpledged": Electors ended up being elected from Alabama to go along with 5 Kennedy/Johnson Electors (the 6 "unpledged" Electors ended up casting their presidential votes for Senator Harry Flood Byrd of Virginia).
Even earlier in the history of Presidential Elections, for instance, just such "mixing and matching" of Electors selected individually on the ballot not all that uncommonly led to just such a split Electoral Vote from a State (for instance, in a close race in a given State entitled to- say, just to throw a number out there- 8 Electors, it was not all that uncommon for the top vote-getting Elector candidate of one Major Party to actually finish ahead of the 8th-place Elector candidate of the other Major Party, resulting in [in this hypothetical scenario] 7 Electoral Votes for one Major Party's National Ticket from that State and 1 Electoral Vote for the National Ticket of the other Major Party from the same State in the same Election). And this is to say nothing, of course, of results which have come out of those States which have- at various times- "appointed" (to use the language of the U.S. Constitution itself) all but the two Electors granted them by virtue of each State having two U.S. Senators via Congressional Districts, rather than Statewide! (By the way, only two States- Maine and Nebraska- currently do this; so far, going into the 2008 contest: since Maine first authorized this for the 1972 Presidential Election and Nebraska followed suit two decades later, neither State has ever split its Electoral Vote).
Keeping all of the above in mind as something in the way of a disclaimer: what the following table purports to do is to- for purposes of fairest comparison between Presidential Elections over a long stretch of time- pretend that things were always as they have been of late as regards said Presidential Elections, even though- as already illustrated- they were not necessarily so "back when"; hence, the concept of "Apparent" Electoral Vote utilized in this table. "Apparent" Electoral Vote simply assumes that the winner of a plurality of the Popular Vote in each State (and D.C. from 1964 on) in a given Presidential Election was the presidential candidate who received all of the Electoral Vote from that jurisdiction (despite exceptions and anomalies along the lines of those noted above). Put another way: "Apparent" Electoral Vote, as seen herein, is merely an attempt to measure a presidential candidate's political strength within the Electoral College based on how the Popular Vote in each State (and, again, D.C. from 1964 on) determined the winning presidential candidate in that jurisdiction. In many cases, this "Apparent" Electoral Vote does not match the official Electoral Vote (that is, the votes as actually later cast by the Presidential Electors so "appointed" in that Election and- later still- counted, tabulated and formally declared in the Tabulation Joint Session of Congress) though, in many other cases, it does so match.
This table begins with the Presidential Election of 1856 because, by then, the modern Republican Party had emerged as the principal challenger to (and, hence, was already becoming a rival Major Party of) the Democratic Party and it would seem to be most fair to compare American Presidential Elections utilizing the methodology of this table within the context of the history of a Two-Party System involving the same two Parties that remain, to this day, the two Major Parties in the United States of America. The Popular Vote for President from each jurisdiction used in this particular endeavor is- wherever practicable- that as was officially reported in the Certificates of Ascertainment (the certificates that are sent to Washington by each jurisdiction's "electoral college" justifying the "appointment" of the Presidential Electors so gathered [such certificates generally include a summary of the Popular Vote as officially certified by State election authorities]: the Electoral Vote itself- that is, how the Electors themselves actually voted- is contained in separate Certificates of Vote also sent to Washington): where this might not have been so easily available, the best tabulations of Popular Vote- as compiled contemporaneously- were relied upon (such as tabulations of Popular and Electoral Vote in each Presidential Election as published in the Executive Register and the like) in order to make the firmest possible determination of just which presidential candidate won the Popular Vote in a given jurisdiction.
Special cases where the Popular Vote could not be obtained are noted (per each relevant Presidential Election) directly underneath this table, along with any and all situations in which the actual Electors as pledged via "appointment" through the Election itself (as opposed to how these Electors actually voted in their respective 'electoral colleges' [thus, so-called "Faithless Electors" are not at all factored into what appears on this table, for the reasons already outlined above]) differed from the "Apparent" Electoral Vote as listed in the table below and determined via the methodology hitherto described.
Winner of the Presidency appears in boldface in the table below; incumbent running for re-election is in italics (thus, an incumbent winning a particular Election appears in boldface italics).
"APPARENT" ELECTORAL VOTE for President of the United States: 1856--
1856. SOUTH CAROLINA was the only State in the Union that- by 1856- had not yet begun to "appoint" its Electors via Popular Vote: rather, its legislature chose its Electors- to account for this in relation to the above table, the prevalent Party of the most recently elected legislature is considered to be the Party of the presidential candidate whom a plurality of the State's electorate would have otherwise supported had the Electors been "appointed" via Popular Vote (in this case, Democrat Buchanan).
1860. The Democratic Party split along sectional lines going into this election: Breckinridge became the presidential candidate of the Southern wing of the Party, Douglas that of the Northern wing (thus, two presidential candidates are listed for the Democrats in the above table). NEW JERSEY "appointed" 7 Electors via Popular Vote: 4 pledged to Republican Lincoln, 3 pledged to [Northern] Democrat Douglas; Douglas is considered to have won the Popular Vote in the State: therefore, Douglas is given +4 Electoral Votes (Lincoln -4) in the above table relative to Presidential Electors as pledged. SOUTH CAROLINA continued to be the only State in the Union that had not yet begun to "appoint" its Electors via Popular Vote: rather, its legislature chose its Electors- as before, the prevalent Party of the most recently elected legislature is considered to be the Party of the presidential candidate whom a plurality of the State's electorate would have otherwise supported had the Electors been "appointed" via Popular Vote (in this case, [Southern] Democrat Breckinridge).
1868. FLORIDA- alone among the States this year (because this former constituent of the secessionist Confederate States of America during the late Civil War had so recently been readmitted to the fullest privileges of Statehood)- had its Presidential Electors "appointed" by its legislature, rather than via Popular Vote- but, as with the earlier cases re: the above table in which a State's legislature chose its Presidential Electors, the prevalent Party of the most recently elected legislature is considered to be the Party of the presidential candidate whom a plurality of the State's electorate would have otherwise supported had the Electors been "appointed" via Popular Vote (in this case, Grant).
1876. No winner is shown in the above table for this election, the (in)famous "Disputed Election" between Democrat Tilden and Republican Hayes, because- given the purpose of the above table (to present each Presidential Election as if it operated per the usual case in modern times, where there is almost always an "apparent" Electoral Vote breakdown soon after General Election Day itself)- this is what would have been the outcome as seen in the immediate aftermath of the voting that year. The 19 "doubtful" Electoral Votes are those from the three Southern States at the heart of the 1876 dispute- FLORIDA, LOUISIANA and SOUTH CAROLINA- where the already complex situation created by two rival slates of Electors casting votes in each State (based on differing sets of returns favored by each Major Party) was further complicated by similar disputes (again, based on a set of 'Democratic' official election returns over against a separate set of 'Republican' election returns) over who had been elected to run each State's government! OREGON's Electoral Vote was also in dispute but, in that State, the dispute revolved around what to do about the '"appointment" of a Republican Elector who was, in fact, ineligible (the Democrats, naturally, argued that this Elector should have been replaced by the highest vote-getter among the Democratic Electors [and, had this actually been done, Tilden would then have had the pledges of the 185 Electors needed to elect in 1876 without the need for any Electors from the three disputed Southern States]): thus, there is no question that Hayes won the Popular Vote in that State. COLORADO, having so recently been admitted to the Union (as of the August immediately prior to the November General Election), was the only State to not "appoint" its Electors via Popular Vote in 1876 (rather, its legislature did so) but, as with the earlier cases re: the above table in which a State's legislature chose its Presidential Electors, the prevalent Party of the most recently elected legislature is considered to be the Party of the presidential candidate whom a plurality of the State's electorate would have otherwise supported had the Electors been "appointed" via Popular Vote (in this case, Hayes).
1880. CALIFORNIA "appointed" 6 Electors via Popular Vote: 5 pledged to Democrat Hancock and 1 pledged to Republican Garfield. Hancock is considered to have won the Popular Vote in the State: therefore, Hancock is given +1 Electoral Votes (Garfield -1) in the above table relative to Presidential Electors as pledged.
1892. Five States were involved here: CALIFORNIA "appointed" 9 Electors via Popular Vote: 8 pledged to Democratic former President Cleveland and 1 pledged to Republican incumbent President Harrison; MICHIGAN "appointed" 14 Electors via Popular Vote: 9 pledged to Harrison and 5 pledged to Cleveland; NORTH DAKOTA "appointed" 3 Electors via Popular Vote: 2 Electors were pledged as so-called 'Fusionists' (who were free to vote for either Cleveland or Populist Weaver: thus, these Electors are best construed as being more anti-Harrison than anything else) and 1 pledged to Harrison; OHIO "appointed" 23 Electors via Popular Vote: 22 pledged to Harrison, 1 pledged to Cleveland; OREGON pledged 4 Electors via Popular Vote: 3 pledged to Harrison, 1 pledged to Weaver. Cleveland is considered to have won the Popular Vote in CALIFORNIA; Harrison is considered to have won the Popular Vote in MICHIGAN, OHIO and OREGON; while the anti-Harrison 'Fusionists' are considered to have won the Popular Vote in NORTH DAKOTA (with the Popular Vote winner in that State, in turn, considered to be Weaver, not Cleveland): therefore, Harrison is given a net +5 and Weaver a net + 1 Electoral Votes (Cleveland -6) in the above table relative to Presidential Electors as pledged.
1896. Two States were involved here: CALIFORNIA "appointed" 9 Electors via Popular Vote: 8 pledged to Republican McKinley and 1 pledged to Democrat Bryan; KENTUCKY "appointed" 13 Electors via Popular Vote: 12 pledged to McKinley and 1 pledged to Bryan. McKinley is considered to have won the Popular Vote in each State: therefore, McKinley is given +2 Electoral Votes (Bryan -2) in the above table relative to Presidential Electors as pledged.
1904. MARYLAND "appointed" 8 Electors via Popular Vote: 7 pledged to Democrat Parker and 1 pledged to Republican Theodore Roosevelt. Roosevelt is considered to have won the Popular Vote in the State: therefore, Roosevelt is given +7 Electoral Votes (Parker -7) in the above table relative to Presidential Electors as pledged.
1908. MARYLAND "appointed" 8 Electors via Popular Vote: 6 pledged to Democrat Bryan and 2 pledged to Republican Taft. Taft is considered to have won the Popular Vote in the State: therefore, Taft is given +6 Electoral Votes (Bryan -6) in the above table relative to Presidential Electors as pledged.
1912. CALIFORNIA "appointed" 13 Electors via Popular Vote: 11 pledged to Progressive Roosevelt and 2 pledged to Democrat Wilson. Roosevelt is considered to have won the Popular Vote in the State: therefore, Roosevelt is given +2 Electoral Votes (Wilson -2) in the above table relative to Presidential Electors as pledged.
1916. WEST VIRGINIA "appointed" 8 Electors via Popular Vote: 7 pledged to Republican Hughes and 1 pledged to Democratic incumbent President Wilson. Hughes is considered to have won the Popular Vote in the State: therefore, Hughes is given +1 Electoral Votes (Wilson -1) in the above table relative to Presidential Electors as pledged.
1960. ALABAMA "appointed" 11 Electors via Popular Vote: 6 'Unpledged' Democrats and 5 pledged to the National Democratic Party ticket headed by Kennedy. In the State's Certificate of Ascertainment, all votes for the top vote-getters from each slate (both slates being Democratic in Party affiliation) were counted for Kennedy and Kennedy is, thereby, officially considered to have been the winner of the Popular Vote in the State- therefore, Kennedy is given +6 Electoral Votes in the above table relative to Presidential Electors as pledged. Some historians, however, note that, considering that many Democratic voters in Alabama must have cast votes for the top vote-getters in each slate, many votes for Kennedy in the official documentation are, thereby, counted twice- therefore, in the opinion of these historians, it is highly likely that Nixon actually won the Popular Vote in Alabama, not Kennedy; on the other hand, some mathematicians point out that, by the same token, many other Democratic voters in Alabama must have voted for neither top vote-getter, thus an assumption that Nixon would have been the winner had the Electors not been chosen as individuals, while still possible, is not necessarily all that likely. For purposes of completeness, it will be noted here that the "Apparent" Electoral Vote where Nixon, not Kennedy, is treated as the winner in Alabama would have been Kennedy 298- Nixon 231- 'Unpledged' Democrat (all from Mississippi, by the way) 8; note that, in this hypothetical case, Kennedy would have still been the apparent winner of the Presidential Election in any event.
2000. Although this Presidential Election has often been compared to that of 1876, the circumstances in 2000 were quite different. Unlike in 1876, FLORIDA did not actually send two separate sets of returns- along with the votes of Presidential Electors from two different Party slates (although the Republican-controlled State Legislature had already indicated that, should later recounts show Democrat Gore to have been the Popular Vote winner in the State, it was prepared to authorize a slate of Electors pledged to Republican Bush in any event [which, then, would have produced something along the lines of 1876] but, of course, this never ever transpired)- nor was there, as there had been back in 1876, dispute over who was legally in charge of the various departments of State Government (indeed, many of the partisan controversies surrounding the 2000 Presidential Election in Florida often revolve around the very fact that, at the time, Republicans controlled the Governor's Chair and the office of Secretary of State along with both houses of the Legislature). The initial official tally (following machine recounts) of the Popular Vote in Florida indicated a 327-vote margin for Bush over Gore (indeed, we on The Green Papers 'called' Florida for Bush on the basis of this original tally three days after Election Day): with this, Bush was, indeed, the apparent winner of Florida's 25 Electoral Votes ("pending the outcome of any potential legal challenges to Governor Bush's victory in the State on behalf of the presidential candidacy of Vice President Gore", as we posted at the time on this website) and the 'apparent' Electoral Vote was, from that point, the very 267/271 breakdown for Gore/Bush shown in the above table.
2008. NEBRASKA "appointed" 5 Electors via Popular Vote: 4 pledged to Republican McCain and 1 pledged to Democrat Obama. McCain is considered to have won the Popular Vote in the State: therefore, McCain is given +1 Electoral Votes (Obama -1) in the above table relative to Presidential Electors as pledged.
2016. MAINE "appointed" 4 Electors via Popular Vote: 3 pledged to Democrat Hillary Clinton and 1 pledged to Republican Donald Trump. Clinton is considered to have won the Popular Vote in the State: therefore, Clinton is given +1 Electoral Votes (Trump -1) in the above table relative to Presidential Electors as pledged.