Barring the sort of anomaly that has been predicted and predictably failed to materialize for 18 months -- resignation, collapse, alien invasion -- Donald Trump will be sworn in as president on January 20 of next year. Trump unquestionably won more electoral votes than Hillary Clinton, thanks in part to his surprise wins in the Midwest. And per the Constitution, those are the votes that count.
The thing about it, though, is that Hillary Clinton will almost certainly have gotten more actual votes than Trump by the time the counting is finished. There's a simple reason why: Clinton won bigger states by more votes. According to the most-recent tallies from Cook Political's Dave Wasserman, Clinton leads nationally by 440,000 votes. In states that she won, she won by an average of 418,000 votes. In states Trump won, he won by an average of 278,000.
Trump's biggest margin of victory in terms of votes was in Texas as of writing, where he won more than 800,000 more votes. Clinton's was in California, where she won by a slightly bigger margin -- 2,568,000.
That's particularly important because, as noted above, not all of the ballots have been counted yet. Nowhere is that more true than in California.
California's hybrid voting system includes both day-of ballots and the vote-by-mail (or "permanent absentee") system. Ballots cast provisionally at the polling place take some time to go through, as do ballots mailed in or those that are damaged and couldn't be read by optical scanners. How many ballots are waiting to be counted?
More than 4.3 million. That doesn't include however many are waiting to be counted in San Diego County, one of the state's most populous, since the county hasn't reported a number yet.
How much could that shift the vote? If we assume that all of those vote-by-mail ballots are split the way the rest of the county split -- a generally though not entirely fair assumption -- Clinton's lead in the state would jump from 2.6 million to 3.5 million, an addition of 900,000 more votes. That's more votes than the margin Trump enjoyed in any state he won, including Texas.
And that's only the vote-by-mail total. If you assume that a tenth of those damaged and provisional ballots are valid, Clinton tacks on another 35,000 votes -- more than Trump's margins in the states of Michigan or Wisconsin.
It will take some time to count those ballots, as it did after the Democratic primary in June. While we wait, we'll note that California isn't the only state where ballots are still coming in. In Illinois, there is a likely smaller total of ballots remaining to be counted (though many counties haven't yet reported their counts). They're counting ballots in Colorado, too, especially in larger urban areas. Clinton won Illinois and Colorado, of course -- and did better in urban areas as a general rule.
A quick aside to note that it is not the case that CNN projected that Trump would win the popular vote, as some conservative outlets had suggested. A general "Projected winner: Trump" stamp on the popular vote tally (that has since been removed) was misinterpreted as suggesting that Trump would win the popular vote. CNN is not projecting that.
With good reason. The sheer number of outstanding ballots in the union's largest state means that barring a big shift in the vote-by-mail margins in each county, Clinton will have more popular votes than Trump. If you assume that somehow Trump will gain another 10 percent in his margins in every state he won thanks to votes being counted, he gains another 830,000 votes against Clinton -- less than what she'll likely take in from the uncounted ballots in California alone. Tack on the size of the third party vote -- modest but larger than normal -- Trump will end up with one of the lowest popular vote percentages of any winning candidate in American history.
And that's only within the slice of the eligible population who actually voted.