Despite garnering 165,250 more votes (of the 118.522,912 cast up to the present time) than her opponent Donald J. Trump, Hillary Rodham Clinton lost in an election that exposed the peculiarities of the American voting system.
In the U.S. electoral voting system, the presidency is not determined by the popular vote, but rather by the ‘electors’ people in a state vote for. Consequently, the more populated a state, the more the electors it has. For example, with a population of 25 million people, the state of Texas is allotted 38 Electoral College votes, while the state of Delaware, with a population of 936,000, gets three.
The 538 electors comprising the Electoral College correspond to 435 members of Congress, 100 Senators and three additional electors for the District of Columbia. As such, whichever candidate gets 270 votes first – or the majority of the 578 – wins the election, which in the case of the 2016 presidential elections happened to be Trump, with 289 to Clinton’s 219.
This type of voting system was implemented in order to ensure regional balance. As such, whether Clinton had won a state by 1% or 99%, she still would have gotten the same number of electoral college votes.
There were only four other instances in American history in which a candidate got fewer popular votes than their opponent but still became president: in 1800, in 1824, in 1976, and most recently, in 2000, when Al Gore won the popular vote but was four Electoral College votes shy of the presidency. George Bush took Florida with a mere 537 votes, getting the electoral college edge and the presidency in the process.