Voices & Choices

Presumptive Nominees Represent Small Portion of Eligible Voters

Presumptive Nominees Represent Small Portion of Eligible Voters


May 10. 2016


Michelle C. Whittaker (301) 270-4616 or [email protected]


FairVote Analysis Reveals Presumptive Nominees Represent Small Portion of Eligible Voters

Wasted Votes Impact Military and Overseas Voters


Takoma, Park, MD — FairVote, the Center for Voting and Democracy, has compiled and posted an online Popular Vote 2016 spreadsheet with detailed state-by-state data on votes cast in the presidential primaries and caucuses to date. The data tracks vote totals for individual presidential candidates in each state that has held a primary or caucus. Additional information includes voter turnout, “wasted” votes cast for withdrawn candidates, and each candidate's share of the total voting population. Data analysis is available for voter turnout in primary elections only since caucus votes are not fully reported to the public.

View the data at this online spreadsheet.

Frontrunners Garner Votes from Small Percentage of Eligible Voters

Overall, only 4.7% of eligible voters cast a ballot for Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee after both Ted Cruz and John Kasich suspended their campaigns following the Indiana primary. The Democratic frontrunner, Hillary Clinton, has received only 5.6% of eligible voters nationwide. “It’s telling that barely a tenth of eligible voters have voted for either of the two presumptive nominees,” remarks FairVote’s executive director Rob Richie, “even in a year of relatively high primary turnout.”

Trump has won 10,706,130 votes out of 26,590,345 counted in Republican contests so far, representing:

  • 40.2% of all Republican votes counted so far

  • 21.9% of all votes counted so far this year in 2016 presidential contests

  • 4.7% of all eligible voters in the United States

  • 4.3% of all adult residents in the United States

  • 3.3% of all people living in the United States

Hillary Clinton has won 12,575,576 votes out of 23,376,193 counted in Democratic contests, representing:

  • 56.2% of all Democratic votes counted so far

  • 25.7% of all votes counted so far this year in 2016 presidential contests

  • 5.6% of all eligible voters in the United States

  • 5.0% of all adult residents in the United States

  • 3.9% of all people living in the United States 

Richie notes, “we ultimately should explore ways of opening up our general elections in November to greater choice through reforms like ranked choice voting.”

Votes Cast for Candidates after Withdrawal

More than 700,000 votes were cast and counted for a candidate that has withdrawn from the race, with a significant portion (619,261) cast in the Republican primary. In Indiana, for example, 28,038 votes were cast for one of the six Republican candidates listed on the ballot but no longer in the race on Election Day (May 3). Other notable vote totals cast for withdrawn candidates came out of Florida (117,187), Arizona (99,306), and Pennsylvania (35,576). In New York, such wasted votes aren’t even reported &mdash including a significantly higher percentage of votes cast by overseas military personnel who received ballots in advance of the primary that often include many withdrawn candidates.

Such absentee and early voters are among those most obviously affected by candidates that drop out of the race between the time when they cast their vote and Election Day. Some voters chose on Election Day to cast a vote for a candidate that had already dropped out. “It’s time for states to uphold voting rights for our troops and all those voting early by using ranked choice voting ballots,” says Richie, “as done already in Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and South Carolina in congressional elections that might go to a runoff.”

The Horserace: Primaries vs. Caucuses

FairVote’s Popular Vote 2016 spreadsheet includes sheets with all results by party as well as ones with votes only cast in caucuses and only cast in primaries. One key finding shows that comparisons overstate similarities between Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders supporters. In primaries only, Sanders’ share of the vote is 41.62% compared to 65.14% in caucuses. For Trump, however, he earns 40.73% of primary votes as compared to 27.24% of caucus votes.

FairVote will continue to update our Popular Vote 2016 spreadsheet (see www.PopularVote2016.com) following the release of official vote totals in every nomination contest, so it can continue to serve as an analysis tool for any journalist interest in voter turnout trends. We will also be releasing an in-depth analysis of presidential primary voter turnout trends.

FairVote is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that seeks to make elections fair, functional, and fully representative. The data provided in the spreadsheet has been collected from publicly available state election pages, state party pages & other sources as indicated.


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