vote-icon-1557862__180Recently I heard a very smart friend say that we should elect Presidents in this country by the popular vote and that it is unfair and undemocratic to use any other system……our votes don’t really count….etc., etc……..In this country we have never used the popular vote to determine the outcome of a presidential election, instead our constitution devised and we use what is called the Electoral College, and most people do not understand what that is, or what it means. Come on in to my civics classroom and take in today’s lecture on voting in America.

electionTo grasp what this would mean to those of us who live in the South, we don’t really understand what it is like to live in a major city or a major metropolitan area (Well ok, some of you may have been to Atlanta one time). Take a look sometime at the population numbers of the largest cities in the United States and then find the largest city in Alabama and see where we rank (Birmingham comes in at #100–look at the bottom). Want to know the state population by rank, look here. If you used the popular vote system a President could be elected with the votes of a few states alone, and those would be the states with the most people, and then your vote would never ever really count.

Consider this: with a total population of more than 321 million over 1/2 of the total population of our country live in only nine (9) of the 50 states (No wide open spaces for those folks).

This is where the concept of representation by population should become clear to you and all readers and that my dear friends is why we have 100 senators (2 for each state) and 535 representatives in the United States Congress. The number of representatives is adjusted every ten years when the census numbers roll in.

presidential-1311753__180So if you want to understand how the Electoral College system works take a look at the pretty colored map attached to this article and juggle the numbers of electors that are attached to each state. There is a lot of red on this map but if you add up the numbers it takes almost a solid red map to get to the magic number of 270 and that my dear reader, is what it takes to elect a President.



  1. With the current state-by-state winner-take-all system of awarding electoral votes (not mentioned in the U.S. Constitution, but later enacted by 48 states), it could only take winning a bare plurality of popular votes in only the 11 most populous states, containing 56% of the population of the United States, for a candidate to win the Presidency with less than 22% of the nation’s votes!

    A presidential candidate could lose while winning 78%+ of the popular vote and 39 states.

    But the political reality is that the 11 largest states, with a majority of the U.S. population and electoral votes, rarely agree on any political question. In terms of recent presidential elections, the 11 largest states have included five “red states (Texas, Florida, Ohio, North Carolina, and Georgia) and six “blue” states (California, New York, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and New Jersey). The fact is that the big states are just about as closely divided as the rest of the country. For example, among the four largest states, the two largest Republican states (Texas and Florida) generated a total margin of 2.1 million votes for Bush, while the two largest Democratic states generated a total margin of 2.1 million votes for Kerry.

    In 2004, among the 11 most populous states, in the seven non-battleground states, % of winning party, and margin of “wasted” popular votes, from among the total 122 Million votes cast nationally:
    * Texas (62% Republican), 1,691,267
    * New York (59% Democratic), 1,192,436
    * Georgia (58% Republican), 544,634
    * North Carolina (56% Republican), 426,778
    * California (55% Democratic), 1,023,560
    * Illinois (55% Democratic), 513,342
    * New Jersey (53% Democratic), 211,826

    To put these numbers in perspective,
    Oklahoma (7 electoral votes) generated a margin of 455,000 “wasted” votes for Bush in 2004 — larger than the margin generated by the 9th and 10th largest states, namely New Jersey and North Carolina (each with 15 electoral votes).
    Utah (5 electoral votes) generated a margin of 385,000 “wasted” votes for Bush in 2004.
    8 small western states, with less than a third of California’s population, provided Bush with a bigger margin (1,283,076) than California provided Kerry (1,235,659).

  2. Because of state-by-state winner-take-all laws, not mentioned, much less endorsed, in the Constitution. . .

    With the end of the primaries, without the National Popular Vote bill in effect, the political relevance of three-quarters of all Americans is now finished for the presidential election.

    In the 2012 presidential election, 1.3 million votes decided the winner in the ten states with the closest margins of victory.

    One analyst is predicting two million voters in seven counties are going to determine who wins the presidency in 2016.

    In the 2016 general election campaign
    As of Sept 23, half (77 of 153) of the presidential and vice-presidential campaign events between the nominating conventions and the first debate were in just 4 states (Pennsylvania, Florida, North Carolina, and Ohio).
    88% of the events (135 of the 153) were in the 11 states identified as closely divided “battleground” states by Politico and The Hill. 29 states have been totally ignored.

    In the 2012 general election campaign

    38 states (including 24 of the 27 smallest states) had no campaign events, and minuscule or no spending for TV ads.

    More than 99% of presidential campaign attention (ad spending and visits) was invested on voters in just the only ten competitive states..

    Two-thirds (176 of 253) of the general-election campaign events, and a similar fraction of campaign expenditures, were in just four states (Ohio, Florida, Virginia, and Iowa).

    Issues of importance to non-battleground states are of so little interest to presidential candidates that they don’t even bother to poll them individually.

    Charlie Cook reported in 2004:
    “Senior Bush campaign strategist Matthew Dowd pointed out yesterday that the Bush campaign hadn’t taken a national poll in almost two years; instead, it has been polling [the then] 18 battleground states.”

    Bush White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer acknowledging the reality that [then] more than 2/3rds of Americans were ignored in the 2008 presidential campaign, said in the Washington Post on June 21, 2009:
    “If people don’t like it, they can move from a safe state to a swing state.”

    Over 87% of both Romney and Obama campaign offices were in just the then 12 swing states. The few campaign offices in the 38 remaining states were for fund-raising, volunteer phone calls, and arranging travel to battleground states.

    Since World War II, a shift of a few thousand votes in one or two states would have elected the second-place candidate in 4 of the 15 presidential elections

    Policies important to the citizens of non-battleground states are not as highly prioritized as policies important to ‘battleground’ states when it comes to governing.

    “Battleground” states receive 7% more presidentially controlled grants than “spectator” states, twice as many presidential disaster declarations, more Superfund enforcement exemptions, and more No Child Left Behind law exemptions.

    Compare the response to hurricane Katrina (in Louisiana, a “safe” state) to the federal response to hurricanes in Florida (a “swing” state) under Presidents of both parties. President Obama took more interest in the BP oil spill, once it reached Florida’s shores, after it had first reached Louisiana. Some pandering policy examples include ethanol subsidies, steel tariffs, and Medicare Part D. Policies not given priority, include those most important to non-battleground states – like water issues in the west.

    The interests of battleground states shape innumerable government policies, including, for example, steel quotas imposed by the free-trade president, George W. Bush, from the free-trade party.

    Parochial local considerations of battleground states preoccupy presidential candidates as well as sitting Presidents (contemplating their own reelection or the ascension of their preferred successor).

    Even travel by sitting Presidents and Cabinet members in non-election years is skewed to battleground states

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