Can Hillary still be the 45th President?

Why Hillary Clinton didn't become president in 2016

The answer to this question lies in the American electoral system. This is very different from the corresponding rules in Germany. The USA is also a democracy, but it works differently.


Who has the right to vote?

The first thing to do is clarify who is actually allowed to vote and what it means to be President of the United States. To vote, you must be at least eighteen years old and have registered to vote. This means that it is not a matter of course, as in Germany, to be able to vote. You first have to register in your city and then you can vote. This generally leads to a low turnout. On average, only around 50% of eligible voters in the United States vote.


Who has the right to stand as a candidate?

Anyone who was born in the USA, is at least 35 years old and has lived in the USA for the last fourteen years prior to the election may become president. The term of office of a president usually lasts four years, but he or she can also be re-elected once.

The presidential elections work on the principle of majority voting. This means that the president who receives the most votes becomes the president. A difference of about one vote can make the difference. In contrast to Germany, however, the choice is not direct. Only electors are elected by the population who have each committed to a party. That means that an elector belongs to the Republicans or the Democrats, for example. If an elector then wins, he receives all of the votes in the constituency, even if, for example, he was only elected by ten votes. This principle is also called the “The Winner Takes It All” principle. As a result, particularly small parties are elected less often. They hardly have a chance of winning enough votes for their electorate. Because of this, the US has been a two-party system since 1852, with either Democrats or Republicans winning. After the election of the electors, the result of the election can of course already be foreseen, but the formal election will take place some time later. To become president, you need a majority of the votes of the electorate, i.e. at least 270 of the 538 votes.


"Popular vote" and "Electoral vote"

This also explains why Hillary Clinton did not win the election in 2016. Hillary Clinton received the majority of the electorate, the so-called "popular vote". Trump had 297 of the 538 electors, Clinton only 228. Trump thus had the decisive "Electoral vote".


Meaning of the "swing states"

The so-called "swing states" are particularly important in the US elections. In most states you can tell whether the electors are Republican or Democratic, as, for example, the respective state has always been elected by Republican. Especially in the south, people tend to vote republican, in the north and the big cities democratic. In swing states, however, this is not the case - now and then they vote Democratic or Republican. But Trump won precisely these swing states for himself, so that he had the majority of the electorate on his side.

In the USA, it is not a matter of winning over the population - the presidential candidates tend to concentrate on winning over the swing states and otherwise rely on the traditional voting behavior of the other states.