Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Electoral College 101 – It Ain’t Over Until The Electors Say So

It is important to know that there are two sets of votes today. The popular vote for a candidate and, in reality, the electoral vote.  I hope this post is a waste of time and there is a clear winner in the election. If it is a tight race however then understanding how this electoral process works will be very important. Fancy isn’t quiet sure on the details of the process so let’s clear it up for those that have questions.

A Brief History Lesson:

According to the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA),  the Electoral College process was created as a compromise by the Founding Fathers between those that wanted to have just a popular vote and those who wanted Congress to elect the President. 

Americans go to the polls and cast a ballot for President and Vice President.  Generally, the candidate who gets the most votes in a state wins that state’s popular vote. What we as voters are actually doing is voting for the Electors who will actually cast the deciding vote on who becomes President.  There are 538 electoral votes and 270 electoral votes are needed to determine who will be President. If neither candidate has enough votes then the House of Representative selects the next President.

The population of a state determines how many electoral votes a candidate will get.  Jan at The Prytz Family has a map that shows the number of electoral votes each state has assigned to them. This is why candidates focus on those states with the largest number of elector votes or the one they need to ensure that they will be elected. Some states are in the bag for a candidate due to political leaning but others states have to be courted.  Over at MartinZoo a home schooling mom help teach her child about the electoral votes in each state using coins.

Who Get’s To Be An Elector?

It is a little easier to say who can’t be an Elector. You cannot be a Senator, a Representative or hold a federal political office. Electors are general chosen by the political parties during political conventions, state officials or have a connected with the candidate. but there are no real requirements for the job.

When you vote for a candidate you are also voting for an elector. Some state show the Electors on the ballot, some do not. You vote for them just the same.

So The Elector Has To Vote According to the Popular Vote in a State?

No.  They do not.  There are states that mandate that the Elector has to vote for the winner in the state’s election but that is not legally binding.

There is no Constitutional provision or Federal law that requires electors to vote according to the results of the popular vote in their States. Some States, however, require electors to cast their votes according to the popular vote. These pledges fall into two categories—electors bound by State law and those bound by pledges to political parties.

It is unlikely that a party selected Elector is going to go against the will of his or her political party. But it could happen and there would be nothing to stop them from doing so.

Does My Vote Count?

Journalism student Jessica Simeone wonders about is it worth it?  Alice from the Trouble of Being Alice has vivid memories of the 2000 election where Al Gore won the popular vote but the electors (by way of the Supreme Court) gave the election to George W. Bush.  I don’t agree with everything Alice wrote but there is a huge chunk of people who do and it is a valid concern.

Faye Anderson at Anderson At Large speak about the anxiety of African American votes feel about the election.

Sara at Busy Nothings:

I've been wondering, too, whether my vote really does count. It's been a while since my last American Government class, and I'd forgotten how the election process works. So I started to give into the mentality that no, I can't change the direction of the vote. Thinking that way made me feel like a bad citizen—especially as a woman. Afterall, women in the early 1900s worked hard to gain suffrage.

The short answer is yes, your vote counts. It always has. Now I have very strong feeling about that vote being usurped, dinged and manipulated. That will not change anytime soon no matter who is elected.

I vote because it is my civic duty. My historic obligation to those that fought so hard to ensure that I had the right to even decide to vote or not vote. There are issues that require my response. Voting is one of the ways to respond.

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