Monday, September 08, 2008

Does Your Vote Count? What is the Electoral College?

A Presidential candidate can win the popular vote and still lose the election. It happened to Al Gore in 2000, to Samuel Tildon in 1876, and to Pres. Grover Cleveland in 1888.

How does this happen? Can this be? Aren't we supposed to Get Out the Vote? And what in the world does that map mean? What does this mean to us? No worries. Here's a brief explanation.

How does this happen? In America we have an indirect election. Yes, citizens get to vote. But the Electoral College decides who becomes President. If there's a tie, the House of Representatives decides; tie there - Senate decides.

Let's look at the Electoral College. Each state gets a certain number of electors. In Colorado, we have 9. It's based on the number of U.S. Senators and Representatives we have in Washington, and that's based on our state population census figures. For comparison, California has 55 electors, and Texas has 34. Wyoming has 3. The Presidential candidate must have a majority of the country's electoral votes to win. That's at least 270 electoral votes, out of 538.

The citizens vote on Nov. 4. The Electoral College votes on Dec. 15. That's when they select the President.

When you vote, you may select "Obama" or "McCain," but actually you are voting for the electoral college electors from your state. They, in turn, pledge to vote for the Presidential tickets of the parties (although there is some question as to whether they are bound to). So, the ticket that receives the most citizen votes statewide wins all of the electoral votes from that state.

Stay with me here. This means that if the 75% of the citizen voters go Republican, and 25% go Democratic, all 9 of Colorado's electoral college votes go to the Republican presidential candidate. If it were truly based on our individual votes, then 6 of the votes would go to the Republican candidate, and 3 of the votes would go to the Democratic candidate. That's how a candidate can win the citizen vote but lose the Presidency - because of the way the Electoral College votes are allocated.

What does this mean to us? There's lots of dispute about whether the Electoral College is fair. But we're Here Now, so for a moment, let's focus on whether our vote really matters and what we can do to get our Presidential pick in office, whichever that may be.

Colorado is being called a "swing state." Purple, for short. Traditionally a staunch "red" Republican state, there's now lots of "blue," with the growth of the Democratic voters here. It's suddenly not so clear who might win the vote here. Any of the major candidates have a reasonable chance of winning the electoral college votes.

That's why your individual vote is important. In a close race - and this one is a dead heat - individual votes can help win the ticket and all of the state's electoral votes.

Who knew that 9 little Electoral College votes could be so powerful?

For good voter registration and other voting information for Colorado voters, see 9News' Anastasiya Bolton's report, What You Need to Know Before You Vote:

Source: NARA, U.S. Electoral College,

Source: Map: Electoral College, Wikipedia:

Subscribe to Kimberlie Ryan's Working Wellness

No comments:

Post a Comment