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Electoral College: Does my vote count or what?

When I tell people I’m not registered to vote, as I mentioned in an earlier post, I usually get the same reaction. Disbelief, disdain, other “dis” words, and sometimes a lecture on why I need to vote. As I’ve said before, I have zero interest in politics. Which makes me an uneducated voter. And therefore dangerous. Another thing I’ve always been skeptical of is the electoral college.

The general way I’ve always understood the electoral college is that each state gets a certain amount of votes, which overrides the popular vote and basically makes my vote not count. I’ve done a lot of research the past couple days, and have fleshed out what I think it actually means. Now, I’m just explaining what I think it is, please feel free to comment and correct me. And forgive me if it’s boring. I really just want to know if I’m understanding this correctly. Phone a friend, or in this case, the blogosphere.

Basically, you have your nominated candidates. We’ll say for this sake that there’s just Republican and Democrat. They’re listed on the ballot like you would normally see. However, when you’re casting a vote for the president and vice president, you’re ACTUALLY voting for their elector. What’s an elector? Glad you asked:

  • The elector is nominated by his or her state party committee (perhaps to reward many years of service to the party).
  • The elector “campaigns” for a spot and the decision is made during a vote held at the state’s party convention.

Here’s a map of the number of electoral college votes each state gets:

electoral college map 2004 and 2008

So, you’re essentially voting for a person to in turn vote for the person you want to be president. Sometimes the ballot tells you this is happening, sometimes it doesn’t. When it does, it looks something like this:

If you notice on the left side of the ballot, it says “Electors for the President and Vice President of the United States”.

Generally, the electors vote for whoever gets the popular vote in the election. But when they don’t, they can lose their spot as an elector.

It’s supposed to keep the election from being swayed by certain sections of the country, as is explained in this example of the election of 1888:

1888: Benjamin Harrison lost the popular vote by 95,713 votes to Grover Cleveland, but won the electoral vote by 65. In this instance, some say the Electoral College worked the way it is designed to work by preventing a candidate from winning an election based on support from one region of the country. The South overwhelmingly supported Cleveland, and he won by more than 425,000 votes in six southern states. However, in the rest of the country he lost by more than 300,000 votes.

So, I guess my vote does count. In a way. Maybe? I’m still pretty confused. Hit me up on twitter and help me out: @marymallard

Thanks, blogosphere!

(I used Wikipedia and primarily for research, as well as Googling a LOT of political websites!)

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