Sunday, November 2, 2008

Electoral College 101:

With the election less than two days away, a lot of voters and non-voters alike, need to know exactly who we're voting for when we fill in those ballots. We don't vote directly for a presidential candidate, instead we vote for electors.

Each state gets a number of electors equal to its membership in the House and Senate; this is the Electoral College. Michigan, for instance, has 17 electors. So if Barack Obama wins the popular vote in Michigan, he gets 17 electors. Out of a possible 538 electors, a candidate needs 270 to become president. It isn't always that simple though. Technically, electors can vote for any person eligible to be president, but its customary to vote for the candidates that are with the popular party. Only two states, Maine and Nebraska, don't use the popular-vote-takes-all elector system. Presidential candidates focus their campaigns on winning the popular vote in states with the most electors (swing states).

If you've ever wondered how a candidate can win the national popular vote and lose the election, here's your answer. It happened to Al Gore in 2000. He was the overall more popular candidate, but because Bush won more of the key elector states, he walked away with the presidency. This is why everybody in every state needs to be voting, and people should know how many electors are in their respective state. I voted absentee in Michigan instead of voting in Georgia because MI has more electors.

Just because your vote is counted indirectly doesn't make it irrelevant. Every vote matters. See you Tuesday.


1 comment:

  1. The major shortcoming of the current system of electing the President is that presidential candidates concentrate their attention on a handful of closely divided "battleground" states. In 2004 two-thirds of the visits and money were focused in just six states; 88% on 9 states, and 99% of the money went to just 16 states. Two-thirds of the states and people were merely spectators to the presidential election. Candidates have no reason to poll, visit, advertise, organize, campaign, or worry about the voter concerns in states where they are safely ahead or hopelessly behind. The reason for this is the winner-take-all rule enacted by 48 states, under which all of a state's electoral votes are awarded to the candidate who gets the most votes in each separate state.

    Another shortcoming of the current system is that a candidate can win the Presidency without winning the most popular votes nationwide. This has occurred in one of every 14 presidential elections.

    In the past six decades, there have been six presidential elections in which a shift of a relatively small number of votes in one or two states would have elected (and, of course, in 2000, did elect) a presidential candidate who lost the popular vote nationwide.

    The National Popular Vote bill would guarantee the Presidency to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states (and DC).

    Every vote would be politically relevant and equal in presidential elections.

    The bill would take effect only when enacted, in identical form, by states possessing a majority of the electoral votes—that is, enough electoral votes to elect a President (270 of 538). When the bill comes into effect, all the electoral votes from those states would be awarded to the presidential candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states (and DC).

    The National Popular Vote bill has passed 21 state legislative chambers, including one house in Arkansas, Colorado, Maine, North Carolina, and Washington, and both houses in California, Hawaii, Illinois, New Jersey, Maryland, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Vermont. The bill has been enacted by Hawaii, Illinois, New Jersey, and Maryland. These four states possess 50 electoral votes — 19% of the 270 necessary to bring the law into effect.