the electoral college & what you need to know

we are quickly approaching election day and it’s certainly been an exciting race. you have probably heard a lot about the “electoral college” and “electoral math” so i wanted to break it down for you. (yes, i’m kind of qualified to talk about this since this is what my graduate work was focused on.)

the electoral college is a process. each state is given a certain amount of votes. for example, here in new jersey, we have 14 electoral college votes. flordia now has 29; ohio 18; texas 38 and so on. we do this because it helps balance the voice of each state. what matters to us here in new jersey, might not matter in texas. the population in texas is higher in new jersey, though, so in theory would have a larger voice.

the number of votes each state receives allows the election to be determined on a more level playing field.

now, there’s electoral math. this is something each campaigns try to figure out constantly throughout the year. there are certain states that you know will vote blue, or democrat, and states that will vote red, republican. you can count these up in your safe list, your never-going-to-win list, and your i-might-just-pull-this-off list.

states vote one way or the other based on that state’s individual popular vote. so, new jersey votes a majority democratic, then the 14 votes go for obama. texas votes a majority republican, then the 38 votes go for romney.

each candidate needs a majority. this means they need 270 electoral votes, at a minimum. anything above that is just icing on the cake.

it is possible there could be an electoral tie, which means each candidate receives 269 electoral votes, and Congress gets to choose the president and vice president. the house of representatives, constitutionally, chooses the president.this year, because the house is dominated by republicans, would elect mitt romney. the senate, dominated by democrats, would elect joe biden. it is highly unlikely that this would happen, and would create some chaos, but hey – you never know.

i want to also note here that it is possible to win the popular vote across the country, yet lose the electoral college. this is because of the electoral votes & math.

when these campaigns are figuring out their math they are also figuring out where to pour their resources. do we campaign in wisconsin? new york? ohio? connecticut?

not so cut and dry. they will not campaign hard in their safe states list. they also won’t spend time and resources in their never-going-to-win list. this means, for example, romney will not campaign in the blue safe new york, or the red safe texas. he will fundraise in texas, because that is where his supporters are. the same for obama. the president will not campaign in blue safe new york, but instead fundraise there, and will not waste time in texas, where he knows romney will win.

different strokes for different folks. certain states vote red certain states vote blue. just shows you how different this country is from state to state.

where they both come to battle is in their i-just-might-pull-this-off list – also known as the swing states. these sometimes are called “purple” states because they are a blend of red and blue voters. these states typically have high volumes of independent voters as well, ones that do not identify with any one party in particular.  these are the states that win elections. states like wisconsin, iowa, ohio and florida. some worth a few votes (iowa with 6) and some worth a whole lot (florida with 29).

if you learn anything from this post today, i hope it is this: no, they do not count the popular vote in the election. yes, the popular vote determines how your state’s electoral votes actually vote.

so, YES your vote matters. get out there on november 6, and participate in our democratic process.


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