The Electoral College: Why you don’t vote for President even if you do

First rule of Electoral College Club – don’t talk about Electoral College Club.  That first rule is pretty easy to keep since most people don’t know a whole lot about the Electoral College.  The second rule is a little harder to swallow.  You don’t vote for President. When you vote on election day you are actually voting for Electors to the Electoral College.  These Electors are then allowed to vote for who ever they want.

OK now we’re into it.  Keep in mind, we do not have a democracy, we have a republic, which is a representative government system.  Democracies are generally majority rule. Since Jefferson, Adams, Hamilton, Washington, Franklin, Madison and the rest loathed the masses, they sure as hell didn’t want 51% of them deciding things for the other 49%. So how do you stop that?  Simple, create a form of government where the majority votes, but the results are left to the rich, educated guys, typically the 1% you keep hearing about.

Now let me just say I’m in favor of this form of government.  I think the educated and successful should govern.  Or at least pick the people who get to govern.  But that’s just me.  I’m a big proponent of letting the qualified pick their replacements.  Buckle up campers, it only gets rougher from here on out.

The Electoral College was a compromise put in the constitution by the founding fathers to ensure a couple of things:  1. peaceful transfer of power every four years by letting the masses feel like they had a say in the process, and 2. the ability to unscrew a mistake made by the masses by letting the Electoral College do the actual voting for President with Congress verifying and endorsing the result.

The founding fathers, regardless of what tea-party members or staunch conservatives will tell you, did not trust the masses and didn’t want to give anyone the ability to vote unless they were highly educated and extremely wealthy to include large land holdings.  Kind of ironic when you hear so many conservatives use the phrase Ivy League Elitists as a slur against liberals.  Even more so when you consider the person saying that is probably a graduate of the Ivy League, and if they weren’t, the founding fathers would not consider addressing that person on any topic of conversation, let alone ask their opinion about political matters.  The irony is so dense it’s impossible to see sometimes.

Anyway, so it works like this.  Each state picks electors to represent each party for the presidential election.  Each state party has as many electors as they have congressmen or women, plus one for each senator.  So Tennessee has 9 men and women in the Congress and 2 in the Senate.   That means Tennessee has 11 electoral votes.  The electors are normally picked at each party’s state convention sometime in the same year as the presidential election, usually around the time of the primary election in the state.  See this quick rundown on primary elections and state conventions: Unbound Delegates Explained.  In some states the electors are actually listed on the ballot next to the presidential candidate they represent.

Every state is winner take all except for Maine and Nebraska.  So if the masses of your state pick Obama, all of his electors from that state go to the Congress in December to vote for president.  If they pick Romney then his electors would go to the Congress.

Main and Nebraska are proportional states.  Meaning electors are sent based on the counties or precincts won in the state by each candidate.  So if a state had 10 counties and Obama wins five and Romney wins five, each candidate’s electors from those counties would be sent to Congress in December to vote.  It’s slightly more convoluted than that but that’s the basic gist.

On the Tuesday after the first Monday in November, the masses go to the polls, as provided for in the constitution.  Sounds screwy, but if November 1st was a Tuesday, the election would be the next Tuesday.  Those crazy founding fathers, they were so… so… old.  After a winner is decided in each state, the governor of each state sends a certificate to the Congress identifying the electors who represent the winning candidate from their state.  In other words, if Mitt Romney wins the state of Tennessee, Governor Haslem has to submit to the congress, by December of that same year, the certificate identifying the electors from the state of Tennessee who represent Mitt Romney.  Those electors will then vote for president and the Congress will verify the count no later than the end of December.

A couple things to note.  The president is not elected the first week of November, he is elected in late December, after the Electoral College votes and congress verifies the Electors vote. Now pull the buckle tighter.  The electors do not have to vote for the person they represent.  The whole reason they exist is to keep the vote amongst the educated and wealthy so the masses don’t screw it up and pick the wrong guy.  Today, as compared to 1800, it’s tougher, but not impossible for the people to vote in one man and the electoral college to pick the other guy.  Again it’s all legal as laid out in the constitution by the founding fathers.

Take the Tennessee example, if Romney won the state, the electors could still cast all their votes for Obama and Romney would have no legal standing.  However, since the electors from Tennessee would be from the Republican Party, it is unlikely they would vote for Obama once they got to the Congress.  If Romney were to go insane, commit a felony, or die, between November 7th and December 31st, then you may see a change of vote by the electors.

So how do you win?  Well I’m sure by now, just by watching TV, you have seen or heard of this thing called electoral math.  A candidate needs 270 electoral college votes to become President.  Again, figure out how many representatives your state has in the Congress, plus 2 for your two senators and that’s how many electoral votes your state has.  So the bigger the population of the state, the more Congressmen and women they have and the more electoral college votes they get.

This is why Obama was able to effect a landslide in total votes even though he only won the east and west coast states.  The east coast: small states, big population, very angry, but a lot of congressmen.  West coast: California, huge state, mucho grande` population, very mellow (it’s the weed), big time electoral college haul.  Florida, Ohio, and Texas are also big electoral college hauls for the same reason.

Here is the current projection map of electoral votes.

This is the map Karl Rove is projecting as of 8 October.  Rove was President Bush 43’s campaign manager.  No mater what you think of him, he is a smart dude.  Probably smartest in the business.  I don’t agree with his politics most of he time, but I take his analysis as gospel.  He called the Obama victory in 08 weeks before anybody else would speculate.  And he was almost 100% on the senate races projections in that same election.

Anyway it’s blue for Obama, red for Romney.  270 electoral votes gets the prize.  And no, there are not enough electoral votes for both men to hit 270.  No ties, no overtime – unless you’re a hanging chad.  Looking at you Florida, or as we called it in Jersey, Southern New York.  The darker the color the greater chance each man will win that state.  Yellow is a toss up, meaning it’s too close to call.  The number next to the state is how many electoral votes the state has.  The big difference here from 08 is Obama took VA and NC, but lost Ohio and Michigan.

If Rove’s math holds up Obama will win 275 electoral votes to Romney’s 191 and the 72 votes that are to close to call won’t matter.  Even if Romney got all 72 toss up votes he would only reach 263.  I’m a bit skeptical but I’ve learned not to doubt Rove’s predictions.  Of course there are two more presidential debates to go, so this may change.

That’s all I got for now.  I’m spent.

Any questions or disputes, fire away in the comment section.

Ok to recap, go vote on November 6th, but just know one thing:  If you’re poor and stupid, Thomas Jefferson didn’t like you.

3 comments on “The Electoral College: Why you don’t vote for President even if you do

  1. Chris Coyne says:

    “+4 for your two senators…” I think I missed something. Are they worth 2 e-votes each?

    I certainly could be misinterpreting…political math, not a strong suit in chez Coyne.

    • fmlinardo says:

      Good catch. 1 electoral vote per senator. It was Anne Marie’s fault. She kept yelling “no it’s 2 per senator, not two per state.” I was all like, “no way bro, it’s one each.” Well, you get the idea.

      See what happens when you don’t go to an Ivy League school.

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