Donald Trump defeated Hillary Clinton last night (Nov. 8) to become the 45th President of the United States. The man who will be sworn into office on Jan. 20, 2017 was picked to lose in almost every mainstream projection, leading up to the shocking news that he not only won, but soundly defeated Clinton. Presidential elections are decided by capturing the majority of the United States’ 538 electoral votes; at publication time, Trump led Clinton 279 to 218, thus topping the 270 needed for said majority.
But what does that all mean? You might be hearing a lot of talk about how Clinton actually won the popular vote. At publication time, she indeed led Trump by about 175,000 votes, according to the Associated Press. As Clinton-friendly West Coast votes continue to be counted, that margin figures to increase. So if more people voted for Clinton, why did Trump win the election?
This is where the United States Electoral College comes in. It’s been in place since the Constitution was first drawn up and, ideally, it’s supposed to protect against a lot of perceived problems that would come from a straight-up popular vote. Each state is given a share of the United States’ 538 electoral votes based off its population, with totals ranging from California’s 55 to a number of states with only three.