Archive for Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Five questions: Electoral what?

President Barack Obama and Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney exchange views during the second presidential debate on Oct. 16 at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y. The Electoral College will play a significant role in determining the next U.S. president.

President Barack Obama and Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney exchange views during the second presidential debate on Oct. 16 at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y. The Electoral College will play a significant role in determining the next U.S. president.

October 30, 2012, 12:10 p.m.

Updated: October 31, 2012, 12:00 a.m.

If you aren’t involved in politics in some way, the Electoral College can often be a confusing concept. Below, Marilyn Gaar, political science professor at Johnson County Community College, offers some insight.

Q: What is the Electoral College?

A: The framers of the U.S. Constitution allowed each state to select a group of electors to cast their state’s vote for president of the United States. These electors constitute an indirect method of selecting the president, and they are popularly referred to as the Electoral College, although that phrase does not appear in the U.S. Constitution.

Q: How does it work exactly?

A: Each state is allowed to decide how to select its electors, although by 1860, all states were directly electing their electors. The number of electors is equal to the number of senators and representatives held by that state, however, no senator, representative or person holding a position within the U.S. government can serve as an elector. A presidential candidate needs a majority of the electors’ votes to win the presidency.

Q: Why was it created?

A: The framers of the constitution were intent upon establishing a form of government that could not abuse the powers entrusted to it. All in all, the Electoral College system functions exactly the way the framers of the U.S. Constitution intended: It prevents majorities from running roughshod over the issues and concerns of the rest of us. At no time in the history of the United States has the president been directly elected by the voters.

Q: How many total electors are there?

A: There are a total of 538 electors.

Q: So does my vote even count?

A: The electors are pledged to vote for the candidate who wins the popular vote in their state. There are two exceptions, Maine and Nebraska, which have proportional systems that required the electors to apportion their votes based on the percentage of the popular vote won by each candidate.

Eliminating the Electoral College frequently is discussed. The last heated debate followed the 2000 election. Ironically, given the lopsided concentration of voters in several states, a presidential candidate could win the popular vote in an election by catering only to a handful of cities. The Electoral College actually forces the candidates to pay attention to a larger percentage of the population in a larger number of states.


mvymvy 5 years, 5 months ago

Now, only a handful of 'battleground' states matter. Voters and policies in 9 states this year are more important than those of the voters in 80% of the states that now are just 'spectators' and ignored after the conventions.

Presidential elections don't have to be this way.

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, everywhere, would be politically relevant and equal in presidential elections. No more distorting and divisive red and blue state maps.

When the bill is enacted by states possessing a majority of the Electoral College votes– enough Electoral College votes to elect a President (270 of 538), all the Electoral College votes from the enacting states would be awarded to the presidential candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states and DC.

The bill uses the power given to each state by the Founding Fathers in the Constitution to change how they award their electoral votes for President. Historically, virtually all of the major changes in the method of electing the President, including ending the requirement that only men who owned substantial property could vote and 48 current state-by-state winner-take-all laws, have come about by state legislative action.

In Gallup polls since 1944, only about 20% of the public has supported the current system of awarding all of a state's electoral votes to the presidential candidate who receives the most votes in each separate state (with about 70% opposed and about 10% undecided). Support for a national popular vote is strong among Republicans, Democrats, and Independent voters, as well as every demographic group in virtually every state surveyed in recent polls in recent closely divided Battleground states: CO – 68%, FL – 78%, IA 75%, MI – 73%, MO – 70%, NH – 69%, NV – 72%, NM– 76%, NC – 74%, OH – 70%, PA – 78%, VA – 74%, and WI – 71%; in Small states (3 to 5 electoral votes): AK – 70%, DC – 76%, DE – 75%, ID – 77%, ME – 77%, MT – 72%, NE 74%, NH – 69%, NV – 72%, NM – 76%, OK – 81%, RI – 74%, SD – 71%, UT – 70%, VT – 75%, WV – 81%, and WY – 69%; in Southern and Border states: AR – 80%, KY- 80%, MS – 77%, MO – 70%, NC – 74%, OK – 81%, SC – 71%, TN – 83%, VA – 74%, and WV – 81%; and in other states polled: AZ – 67%, CA – 70%, CT – 74%, MA – 73%, MN – 75%, NY – 79%, OR – 76%, and WA – 77%. Americans believe that the candidate who receives the most votes should win.

The bill has passed 31 state legislative chambers in 21 states. The bill has been enacted by 9 jurisdictions possessing 132 electoral votes - 49% of the 270 necessary to go into effect.

NationalPopularVote Follow National Popular Vote on Facebook via NationalPopularVoteInc


mvymvy 5 years, 5 months ago

With National Popular Vote, big cities would not get all of candidates’ attention, much less control the outcome. The population of the top five cities (New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston and Philadelphia) is only 6% of the population of the United States and the population of the top 50 cities (going as far down as Arlington, TX) is only 15% .

Suburbs and exurbs often vote Republican.

If big cities controlled the outcome of elections, the governors and U.S. Senators would be Democratic in virtually every state with a significant city.

A nationwide presidential campaign, with every vote equal, would be run the way presidential candidates campaign to win the electoral votes of closely divided battleground states, such as Ohio and Florida, under the state-by-state winner-take-all methods. The big cities in those battleground states do not receive all the attention, much less control the outcome. Cleveland and Miami do not receive all the attention or control the outcome in Ohio and Florida.

The itineraries of presidential candidates in battleground states (and their allocation of other campaign resources in battleground states) reflect the political reality that every gubernatorial or senatorial candidate knows. When and where every vote is equal, a campaign must be run everywhere.

With National Popular Vote, when every vote is equal, everywhere, it makes sense for presidential candidates to try and elevate their votes where they are and aren't so well liked. But, under the state-by-state winner-take-all laws, it makes no sense for a Democrat to try and do that in Vermont or Wyoming, or for a Republican to try it in Wyoming or Vermont.

Even in California state-wide elections, candidates for governor or U.S. Senate don't campaign just in Los Angeles and San Francisco, and those places don't control the outcome (otherwise California wouldn't have recently had Republican governors Reagan, Dukemejian, Wilson, and Schwarzenegger). A vote in rural Alpine county is just an important as a vote in Los Angeles. If Los Angeles cannot control statewide elections in California, it can hardly control a nationwide election.

In fact, Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Jose, and Oakland together cannot control a statewide election in California.

Similarly, Republicans dominate Texas politics without carrying big cities such as Dallas and Houston.

There are numerous other examples of Republicans who won races for governor and U.S. Senator in other states that have big cities (e.g., New York, Illinois, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts) without ever carrying the big cities of their respective states.

Candidates would need to build a winning coalition across demographics. Candidates would have to appeal to a broad range of demographics, and perhaps even more so, because the election wouldn’t be capable of coming down to just one demographic, such as Wal-mart mom voters in Ohio.


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