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Jon Greenberg
By Jon Greenberg April 5, 2016

Does Clinton really have 2.5 million more votes than Sanders?

Momentum in politics might be hard to define, and it might be fleeting, but one thing is sure -- you don’t want the other guy to have it. So when on April 5, 2016, one of the hosts of ABC’s The View began a question to Hillary Clinton with the fact that Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders had won five out of the past six contests, Clinton made sure that didn’t hang in the air very long.

"You have to look at the broader perspective," Clinton said. "He’s won some, and I’ve won some, but I have 2 and a half million more votes than he does. And I have a very significant lead in delegates." (Separately, Clinton’s campaign manager Robby Mook made the same claim in an April 4 Medium post titled, "To Hillary Clinton supporters: The facts on where the race stands.")

Does Clinton have a 2.5 million-vote lead over Sanders?

We asked both the Clinton and Sanders campaigns for their numbers. Sanders’ staff pointed us to a spreadsheet produced by Fair Vote, an advocacy group that supports new approaches to voting to reduce partisanship. The Clinton campaign also sent us their election vote tally.

There’s really only one significant hitch in all of the data. For states that hold primaries, you can see how many votes were cast for Clinton and Sanders. That also true for some, but not all, caucus states. So for example, Colorado held a caucus and Sanders got 71,928 votes compared with Clinton’s 49,256.

But for Iowa, Nevada and Maine, the only numbers that get reported are the delegates awarded to each candidate. The ratio of delegates to votes varies from precinct to precinct so there’s no way to do some simple math to get to the underlying number of votes.

Sam Lau, communications director for the Iowa Democratic Party, told us "I don’t know of any data on this." The situation is the same for Nevada and Maine. And a Washington Democratic Party staffer told us they would have the raw vote tallies eventually, but right now, they were still getting packets sent in from around the state and tabulating them.

Where does that leave us?

Well, with the Wisconsin vote not yet in, based on the Fair Vote totals, the primary tallies stand at 8,746,692 for Clinton compared to 6,049,960 for Sanders. This gives Clinton nearly 2.7 million votes more than her rival.

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But when we factor in the caucuses with full vote counts, Clinton’s margin drops to a bit over 2.5 million. (Those states are Utah, Nebraska, Minnesota, Kansas, Idaho, Hawaii, Colorado and Alaska.)

Would the actual votes from the remaining caucuses in Iowa, Nevada, and Maine, as well as Washington, change the totals very much?

No one can say for sure, because literally, no one has the numbers. One can run some rough estimates by taking the estimated Democratic turnout and allocating them by the same percentage as the delegates that were awarded.

Do that and Clinton loses about another 100,000 votes compared to Sanders.

Rob Richie, executive director at Fair Vote, told us that approach is flawed, but his sense is the result is about right.

"At the end of the day, Clinton has between 2.4 (million) and 2.5 million more votes than Sanders," Richie said. "It’s a little less, but not too much less, than what you see now."

Our ruling

Clinton said she has received 2.5 million more votes than Sanders. That claim can’t be completely verified because we don’t have the raw vote totals from the caucus states of Iowa, Nevada, Washington and Maine.

However, given the numbers we do have, it is likely that Clinton’s lead is at least in the neighborhood of 2.4 million votes.

That’s not much of a difference. We rate this claim Mostly True.

Our Sources

ABC News, The View, April 5, 2016

Fair Vote, Presidential Primaries 2016, April 5, 2016

Alaska Democratic Party, 2016 Caucus results

Interview, Sam Lau, communications director, Iowa Democratic Party, April 5, 2016

Email interview, Stewart Boss, press secretary, Nevada Democratic Party, April 5, 2016

Email interview, Jamal Raad, communications director, Washington State Democratic Party, April 5, 2016

Interview, Rob Richie, executive director, Fair Vote, April 5, 2016

Email interview, Mike Casca, rapid response director, Sanders for President, April 5, 2016

Email interview, Josh Schwerin, communications, Clinton for President, April 5, 2016


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