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The Electoral College is close. The popular vote isn’t.

As the presidential race inches agonizingly toward a conclusion, it might be easy to miss the fact that the results are not actually very close.

With many ballots still outstanding in heavily Democratic cities, former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. was leading President Trump by more than four million votes nationwide as of Thursday evening. His lead will continue to expand, perhaps substantially, as officials finish counting.

This means more Americans have voted for a Democrat for president than for a Republican in each of the past four elections, and seven of the past eight, the exception being 2004, when President George W. Bush beat John Kerry by about three million votes. But, depending on the outcome this year, only four or five times in those eight elections have they actually put one in the White House.

It looks likely that Mr. Biden will eke out an Electoral College win. But the narrowness of the result, in contrast to the fairly decisive preference of the American public, has intensified some Americans’ anger at a system in which a minority of people can often claim a majority of power.

“We look at a map of so-called red and blue states and treat that map as land and not people,” said Carol Anderson, a professor of African-American studies at Emory University who researches voter suppression. “I’ve been thinking about how hard folks have to work to be able to vote, what it takes to overcome all of this that voter suppression has put in place, and that someone could be ahead by three million votes — which is bigger than most cities and probably some states — and still we have what almost amounts to a nail-biter.”

Mr. Biden’s current vote margin is, in fact, larger than the populations of more than 20 states, and more than the population of Los Angeles.

A similar disparity exists in the Senate, where the current Democratic minority was elected with more votes than the Republican majority and where by 2040, based on population projections, about 70 percent of Americans will be represented by 30 percent of senators.

“It’s not that the states that are represented by the 30 percent are all red, but what we do know is that the states that are going to have 70 senators are in no way representative of the diversity in the country,” said Norman Ornstein, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. “The more this happens, the more you get the sense that voters don’t have a say in the choice of their leaders. And you cannot have a democracy over a period of time that survives if a majority of people believe that their franchise is meaningless.”


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