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Hillary Clinton may not be the only loser of the 2016 presidential election. The Electoral College, our widely misunderstood system for choosing presidents, may soon be under attack.

Early Wednesday morning, Clinton finally squeaked past Donald Trump in the national popular vote. While we don’t know anything definitively yet — plenty of provisional and other ballots remain to be counted — it stands to reason her lead could grow as more results are reported on the West Coast.

Democratic California, after all, supplied enough votes to erase Trump’s national lead. This is legally irrelevant but politically significant.

This would be the second time in 16 years a Republican has won the presidency without winning the popular vote. Prior to 2000, the popular vote loser won only three times in our history with the last victory coming in 1888.

It’s possible, though not certain, that Trump could lose the popular vote by a bigger margin than George W. Bush. He is likely to have a bigger electoral majority, however. That’s why Clinton conceded when Al Gore did not: there was no combination of hanging chads that was somehow going to change the outcome. Trump could still exceed 300 electoral votes.

But Democrats are going to be even more outraged by Trump’s victory than Bush’s. Expect to hear blowback against the Electoral College as an obsolete anachronistic throwback to a less democratic era in American politics.

The United States does not have true national elections. A federal republic rather than a unitary state, the presidential race is really a composite of elections in 50 states plus the District of Columbia.

Voters used to have no problem with the idea that the major parties select their nominees with separate elections in the different states and territories rather than in a big national vote. The only difference is that the general election is scheduled for just one day (though the advent of early voting has changed that somewhat).

The primary system has recently encountered democratic objections, however. Clinton’s supporters raised them in 2008. She received more votes than Barack Obama overall, though he beat her in contests where they actually competed head to head. Nevertheless, her supporters crowned her the popular vote winner and said the truly democratic result would be to ignore Obama’s delegate lead and nominate her instead.

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Trump’s big lead in the Republican popular vote was one of the things that robbed Never Trump efforts to deny him the nomination of their democratic legitimacy. To nominate someone other than Trump would have required picking a nominee who had received several million fewer votes or no votes at all.

Because Trump easily cleared the delegate threshold to win the Republican nomination on the first ballot, it became a moot point. But Trump was manifestly willing to raise democratic objections to the delegate system if he fell short of the required 1,237 while winning a plurality of the popular vote.

Nobody complains when the electoral vote makes modest popular vote margins look like huge landslides. That was the case when Obama and Bill Clinton each won the popular vote by 5 points or less but led in the Electoral College by over 100 votes.

Arguments for the Electoral College are less intuitive than arguments for a straight popular vote in a political culture where states are seen as less important and certainly not sovereign or where we directly elect senators rather than having state legislatures choose them as the Framers originally provided.

One D.C. voter told me the Electoral College was like the metric system and daylight savings: anachronisms everybody hates but nobody changes.

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The big problem Democrats are going to have if they try to abolish the Electoral College is that it is very difficult to amend the Constitution unless you have any overwhelming political consensus. It’s especially hard if you don’t control either house of Congress. But even if the Democrats regain their majorities someday soon, amendments need two-thirds majorities in both houses and then ratification by three-fourths of states.

A possible workaround is to change the way states allocate their electoral votes in order to reflect the national popular vote. One initiative proposes doing so through an interstate compact, authorized under the Constitution. States also don’t have to use the current winner-take-all system. Nebraska and Maine already allocate by congressional district, the latter netting Trump an additional electoral vote.

The degree of consternation about the presidential election could be read as a good reason to move to a more federalized system rather than a more nationalized one. But a major party twice bitten by the Electoral College is unlikely to be once shy.

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