There are millions of ballots that haven’t been counted yet from the 2016 presidential election.
The New York Times estimated on November 12 that there are 7 million uncounted ballots in the country.
The uncounted votes aren’t going to change the final outcome of the election (they’re not clustered in swing states) but, because millions are in the blue state of California, they could increase Hillary Clinton’s popular vote totals to historic dimensions. Around the country, various state races and issues – such as marijuana legalization propositions and the North Carolina governor’s race – could be affected. Clinton could come closer to Barack Obama’s overall 2012 popular vote total.
On November 10, two days after the election, The Los Angeles Times reported that California still had not counted 4 million ballots, a number expected to grow.
Donald Trump’s large lead in the Electoral College (he leads 290 to 228) reduces the chances of post-election ballot skirmishes.
Clinton won the popular vote in already counted ballots. As of November 13, the AP was reporting these popular vote totals:
Donald Trump 60,350,241 (47.3%)
Hillary Clinton 60,981,118 (47.79%)
That’s a difference of 630,877 votes.
The New York Times has each candidate with slightly fewer votes. Clinton already has the fourth highest popular vote total in American history and could move to third place after the uncounted ballots are tallied, a historic achievement. Trump’s margin is slightly lower than Mitt Romney’s, but may exceed it after uncounted ballots are tallied, propelling him to the highest Republican popular vote total in history. (See a state-by-state popular vote list here.)
For comparison purposes:
2012, according to 270toWin
Barack Obama 65,446,032
Mitt Romney 60,589,084
2008, per 270toWin
Barack Obama 69,456,897
John McCain 59,934,814
2004, per 270toWin
George W. Bush 62,039,073
John Kerry 59,027,478
(See the end of this article for more historic popular vote totals).
Some argue that the 2016 uncounted ballots will increase Clinton’s margin in the popular vote by a lot. The Huffington Post says Clinton’s margin of victory in the popular vote is expected to be larger than the margin “Richard Nixon had over Hubert Humphrey in 1968 or John F. Kennedy had over Nixon in 1960. Her edge is also larger than Al Gore’s popular vote victory over George W. Bush in 2000…”
When all ballots are counted, says The New York Times, she’s likely to lead the popular vote by 2 million votes and more than 1.5 percentage points. Despite the popular vote edge, the Times argued that Democrats need to find a way to appeal to Midwestern white working class voters who split for Trump, giving him an Electoral College victory that was not deep (the margins were small in multiple key states) but was wide.
The Huffington Post argues that high popular vote tallies reduce a Donald Trump mandate and fuel efforts to get rid of the Electoral College, which was designed so that a few populous areas don’t determine every election but, rather, that candidates must compete for the hearts of minds of Americans in every state. Millions of people have signed a petition calling on electors to switch to Hillary Clinton when the Electoral College votes in December, even if their states bind them to Trump. This is called the “Faithless Elector” scenario, although it’s highly unlikely.
AL.com says four other candidates in American history have won the popular vote but not the presidency: Gore; Andrew Jackson in 1824; Samuel Tilden in 1876; and Grover Cleveland in 1888.
See the most recent unprocessed ballot report from the California Secretary of State.
Absentee ballots just have to be postmarked by election day in California; they don’t have to be received by that day to still be counted. Provisional ballots also needed counting. Since Hillary Clinton had a 29% lead over Donald Trump in California, the uncounted ballots would likely add to her popular vote total, said The Los Angeles Times. Vote tallies for California show Clinton with 5,931,283 votes in California compared to 3,184,721 for Donald Trump.
Not everyone thinks that uncounted ballots only help Clinton. American Thinker argues: “absentee ballots in some states favor Republicans because they are often military ballots as well as “businesspeople away on trips.”
Uncounted ballots won’t change the presidency, but they could affect some statewide ballot measures and local races. As of November 10, Arizona still had over 600,000 uncounted ballots (which may be one reason the Associated Press waited until that day to call the state for Trump.) That could affect the ballot measure to legalize marijuana, which was losing by 4 percentage points.
The Atlantic wrote a lengthy article repudiating the below chart by arguing that Clinton’s turnout was sure to grow as the remaining ballots are counted.
Reported the Atlantic, “State officials are still counting millions of provisional and absentee ballots, and within two weeks, Clinton will likely have another few million votes in the bank.”
The Atlantic said most were cast in California, Washington, and New York, meaning the effect of uncounted ballots will likely be to boost Clinton’s lead in the popular vote, not alter the Electoral College outcome that gave Trump the presidency.
In North Carolina, the day after election day, there were 26,600 provisional ballots left to count, not enough to switch the presidential results, but enough to affect a tight governor’s race, said the Associated Press. The Republican Gov. Pat McCrory was behind Democratic Attorney General Roy Cooper by about 5,000 votes, said the AP. Cooper declared victory, but Republicans argue it’s premature and have filed a complaint demanding a recount of ballots after it was revealed that 90,000 were counted by hand.
In Utah, which Trump won easily, there remained 153,000 uncounted ballots as of the evening after the election.
Maine was still processing 4,500 absentee ballots after the election. Ballot measures on marijuana legalization and educational tax revenue remained undecided a result, said The Press Herald.
In Michigan, which Trump won by only about 13,000 votes, the Secretary of State’s office told Heavy all ballots have been counted. The results will now go through a canvassing process. The AP has not yet called Michigan for Trump because of the tight margin.
Here are some other historic vote totals, from 270toWin:
George W. Bush 50,456,062
Al Gore 50,996,582
Bill Clinton 45,590,703
Bob Dole 37,816,307
Bill Clinton 44,908,254
George Bush 39,102,343
George Bush 47,946,000
Michael Dukakis 41,016,000
Ronald Reagan 54,455,000
Walter Mondale 37,577,000
Ronald Reagan 43,901,812
Jimmy Carter 35,483,820
You can see electoral vote and popular vote data for more historic elections here.