Monday, November 3, 2008

Do we REALLY understand the electoral system?

With the omnipresent pending elections (tomorrow!!!!), I have had SO many conversations about the US voting system. Today I was reading the news and came across this article talking about how electoral votes are determined (by state population rather than number of eligible voters). Because of the high/low numbers of eligible voters in different states, many voters actually count as 'more than one person.' I thought it was interesting - check it out!

PS - I voted.
PPS - You should too.
PPPS - All of us 'ex-pats' are having an election day braai at my house tomorrow to share our American pride/anxiety.

graphic taken from here.

1 comment:

Kent said...

Not to be overly technical, but electors are determined by the number of senators and representatives representing each state in Congress. Since each state has 2 senators and is guaranteed 1 representative, three electors for each state have nothing to do with population [a state, no matter how unpopulated, is guaranteed 3 electors, for 2 senators and 1 representative]. . However, since each state's number of representatives in the House of Representatives is based upon population, the number of electors over the minimum of 3 per state is based upon population. Again, technically, when you vote for a presidential candidate you are actually voting for electors who have committed to vote for that candidate. This concept was established in our Constitution in an attempt to minimize the impact of fraud at the polling place since in the early days electors were thought to be more informed and since electors are not bound - they can vote for someone else if they want - but that has only happened a few times in our history. Many have argued that the Constitution should be amended to abolish the electoral college and base results on popular vote, but small states aren't too crazy about that idea since it would minimize their impact on the election and the electoral college system makes them relevant (this year, for example, Colorado, New Mexico and Nevada get lots of attention since under our current system, the winner of each state (with a few exceptions), no matter how close, gets all the electors for that state - if results were based purely on popular vote, all of the efforts would be in the most populous states to get out the vote). The best recent example of how the electoral system effects the election is 2000 when Gore won the popular vote across the nation, but lost Florida by 500 or so votes. Bush received all of Florida's electoral votes and won the election in the electoral college. The close race in Florida that year should convince folks that their vote counts, even under the electoral system.