So why won’t your vote count? Presidential elections are not determined by popular vote. They are decided with an archaic little system we call the Electoral College. No, they do not have fraternities.
The Electoral College is a group of delegates that meets usually around the end of the year. Delegates come from each state. Most states, including Kentucky, have a winner-take-all formula for deciding how many electoral votes a candidate receives. He who has the largest number of popular votes in the state wins the state’s electoral votes.
The anachronistic Electoral College then assembles, and votes for the president. By today’s population and the number of states, the magic number of electoral votes is 270. If you’re asking how you determine how many electoral votes a state gets, the answer is simple. It’s the number of representatives in the U.S. House plus two senators. This means Kentucky has eight representatives.
Twice in our history, a presidential candidate has won more popular votes than a rival, yet lost the election. The first was in 1888. Grover Cleveland got 48.63 percent of the votes, yet had only 168 electoral votes. Benjamin Harrison had 47.8 percent of the popular vote, yet won some more populous states, and got 233 electoral votes.
As a Floridian, I vividly recall the second time around. George W. Bush won the election with 271 electoral votes and 47.87 percent of the national popular vote. Al Gore had 48.38 percent of the popular vote, yet only 266 electoral votes.
The Founding Fathers had a good sense of freedom, yet feared the mob rule of true democracy, hence our republican form of government. The electoral college was a check against mob rule and ensured, in their wisdom, that a wildly popular candidate would not win, and states would be represented in national government.
What it means for us is that candidates spend their time and money only in swing states. How many times have Obama and Romney gone to Michigan, Pennsylvania, Colorado or Florida? How many times have they stumped in Kentucky? I think your vote and mine is as important as an Ohio voter’s.
Take two states with solid reputations for being red and blue. For this exercise, let’s say California and Texas. If a Californian voter casts a ballot for Romney, it is a lost cause, because the state is fairly liberal. Obama will likely win. No voice to that voter. If a Texan voter likes Obama, should his or her voice not count?
Then there are nightmare scenarios that make Bush and Gore look like toddlers fighting over toys. If no candidate reaches a majority of electoral votes, the House of Representatives will decide. The Senate will decide the vice president, meaning we could have a Romney-Biden administration. If the House cannot decide, then the sitting vice president assumes the Oval Office until the tie is broken.
The solution would require a Constitutional amendment, but it’s well worth considering. Let’s do away with the Electoral College. One man or woman, one voice one vote across the land. The candidate with the most votes across the nation at the end of the election wins the job. This is democracy in action.
My vote and yours will mean as much as the people in the swing states. A sitting Democratic president might have to come to Benton. A Republican would have to stump in Buffalo, N.Y. No longer will a candidate have to concern himself with a state, but with voters like us.
Elections are of vital importance, and I think everyone’s vote should count, from every state, for any and every candidate. Ask your lawmaker what he or she thinks of the Electoral College. Tell us if you want every vote to count. n