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What Exactly Was the Popular Vote in 2012?

I was recently writing a post on how news organizations still haven’t updated their election results. As part of that post, of course, I tried to track down the “real” popular vote. That is, how many votes did President Barack Obama and Governor Mitt Romney actually win, in reality?

Election 2012
I ran into a problem. Apparently nobody knows.Different organizations are reporting different numbers. To find reliable election results, most analysts go to Dave Leip’s Atlas of U.S. Presidential Elections. However, Dave’s numbers differ from those of Wikipedia. Unfortunately, Dave doesn’t provide a source of how he got his numbers. Wikipedia does; it derived its numbers from the Federal Election Commission Report. Ironically, however, Wikipedia’s numbers are actually different from the report’s numbers. Then there is Dave Wasserman, who with great labor added uncounted ballots to the numbers as they were counted. His numbers are slightly different as well. Here’s a table:

Votes Won According to… Barack Obama Mitt Romney
Dave Leip 65,909,451 60,932,176
Dave Wasserman 65,909,191 60,932,015
Huffington Post 65,899,660 60,932,152
Federal Election Commission Report 65,899,660 60,932,152
Wikipedia 65,907,123 60,931,767

The vote counts by private individuals such as Dave Leip are probably the most accurate. Unfortunately, these people don’t say how they got their numbers.

In addition, there is the fact that uncounted ballots are still being discovered and added to the official count. For instance, a stack of ballots was found in New York City in March, after the completion of the Federal Election Commission Report. So the report is probably wrong. Dave Wasserman also has stated that the official certified results in some states are wrong; apparently the states incorrectly added up all the official county numbers.

The best way to find the popular vote is probably to add up individually all the official certifications of the vote by each state, which I may or may not do. Of course, we also have to be aware of the fact that some of these official certifications may be wrong.

We may never actually know how many votes Barack Obama and Mitt Romney won in the 2012 presidential election.


Photo from League of Women Voters of California licensed under Creative Commons

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Right now, I am a college student living in southern California. I’ve been heavily following politics for as long as I can remember.

I would characterize myself as a left-leaning political moderate. I’m somewhat socially conservative and fairly economically liberal (as defined in the United States). I will attempt to maintain a high-level, respectful level of argumentation – even if I disagree vehemently with a particular person or a particular political viewpoint.