Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Who did you vote for?

In fact, does your vote really count? After all, we use the Electoral College to elect the President. We cast our votes, district by district, assuming our popularly-elected representative will cast his or her vote for whoever wins the district. Why do we go through all this? On the surface, it would appear as though your singular vote does not count unless you reside in a swing state. Here in Texas, we vote Republican, so very little time and energy is spent by the candidates trying to influence our vote. California votes Democrat and likewise does not get a lot of attention from the candidates. So to win the Presidency, the formula is simple: win the swing states.

So let me answer two questions I know your dying to ask (in fact, Megan asked one this morning while calling the Electoral College "stupid." – sounds like she has a platform from which to run.)

1. What if my representative does not vote with the plurality?
-In fact, most states have laws which require him to do just that. Likewise, if he abstains from casting his vote, there are laws designed to remove him from his elected position. Theoretically it could happen, but it hasn't. I think I remember reading about a representative who may have died before casting his vote, so I'll have to Google about that to see how it was handled.

2. What happened to "majority rules?" It seems more in line with true democracy.
-True. However, the system was designed to give ALL states a voice. Not just the ones with dense populations. If this were the case, the candidates would spend all their time in Los Angeles, New York, and Chicago and serve just their interests. Essentially, farmers in Ohio would not have much of a voice. The Electoral College requires that candidates serve a broader set of interests, not just urban-centric ones.
(Editorial: the 2000 Bush election. Bush wins the electoral, while Gore wins the popular. Use your imagination and try to envision how Gore would have handled 9/11 if he were President. While you might not agree with the Bush administration tactics, you have to admit he kept the country relatively safe.)

One question I got:
But why are some Electoral Colleges a lot larger than others? Like why does California hold the most, with 55 (or something like that)? What does the size of your Electoral College have to do with?

Answer: There are 538 electors. This is equal to the number of Senators for the state plus the number of seats in the House of Representatives (side note: District of Columbia is given the number of electors equal to the smallest number among the states). Let's do some math: 50 Senators plus 435 Representatives plus 3 for District of Columbia equals 538. The President is elected when he receives a majority (270). To answer your original question, the most populous states have the most seats in the House of Representatives. The number of electors for California equals 2 Senators plus 53 Representatives. Most states employ a winner-take-all paradigm. For example, if the electoral results for California tallied 28 for Democrat and 27 for Republican, the Democratic candidate will win all 55 electoral votes. Maine and Nebraska are the two states that will divide the number of electoral votes among the parties based on poll results. My hope is that you study your local Representatives next time you vote since he or she is casting your vote for you.


Fish Family said...

Thanks. I feel better now:)

The Shu's said...

Thanks for your wonderful insight Scott!

Brandi said...

But why are some Electoral Colleges a lot larger than others? Like why does California hold the most, with 55 (or something like that)? What does the size of your Electoral College have to do with?

Mike and Adriane said...

Funny thing about this post is Mike and I were talking about the EXACT same thing on Tuesday! I'm glad you started your own blog, I like the behind the scenes into Megans brain! :)

Hall5 said...

Thanks Scott! Every 4 years I am confused between the popular vote vs the Electoral College vote! I am thankful to have a really smart and insightful brother n law!