Before Hillary Clinton's loss to Donald Trump in yesterday's election it has only happened in the history of US four times that a candidate won popular votes but still lost the election.
The reason for Hillary Clinton's loss lies in the method that is followed by the US to elect its President. The election for the President of the US takes place every four years. The election is held on the first Tuesday in the month of November.
On the Election Day the Americans cast their votes for President. However, the total of the votes cast which is the popular vote does not determine the winner.
The US follows the Electoral College system to elect the President, that means the candidate must receive majority of electoral votes and not popular votes to win the election.
What is the Electoral College?
The President and Vice President in the US are not elected directly by the people but they are elected by the "electors" through the process called the Electoral College.
That the President and Vice President will be chosen by the electors is part of US Constitution. The idea was to find a compromise between electing the President by a popular vote among citizens and electing the President in Congress.
Each state gets electors depending on how many members of Congress (House and Senate) the state has. When three electors of Washington DC are added total number of electors comes to 538.
Each state's political parties choose their own list of potential electors and the votes cast by these electors are taken into consideration while electing the President.
As per the constitution the electors need not vote according to the popular vote of the people they represent. However, rarely electors do not follow the people's or party's choice.
Uncommon to win popular vote but lose the election:
Such a situation arises when a candidate can win a combination of states and reach the mark of 270 electors vote without winning the majority of votes across the US.
Electoral votes are awarded on the basis of the popular vote in each state. It has to be noted here that of all the 50 states 48 states award Electoral votes on a winner-takes-all basis (as does the District of Columbia).
Which means that all Electoral votes of a particular state will go to the winner of the state election, even if the margin of victory is only 50.1 percent to 49.9 percent.
It has been observed that in a multi-candidate race where candidates have strong regional appeal, it is possible that a candidate who collects the most votes on a nation-wide basis will not win the electoral vote.
In a two-candidate race, like it was yesterday between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump it is less likely to occur. However, in 1876, 1888 and in the year 2000 presidential election it had happened that popular vote winner could not win the electoral votes and was not elected as the President.