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Electoral College Map: Understanding the Difference Between the Popular and Electoral Vote

For those of you who are not familiar with the Electoral College, no, it is not a school.
Let’s get that part out of the way first. The Electoral College is a group of people selected by each state who vote for the president. For a candidate to become president they need to win the Electoral College vote. Usually that means they win the popular vote, but not always. Only four presidents have won the electoral vote who did not win the popular vote, the most recent being George Bush in 2000. That does NOT mean that your vote as an individual doesn’t count. So if you haven’t voted today, go out and do so! When you vote for president you are doing two things. First you are casting your vote for the president. Once these numbers are tallied up, it is called the popular vote. Second, you are voting for the members of the Electoral College. Sometimes they will be listed under the candidates’ names on the ballots and sometimes not. Electoral voters are selected by each party for their loyalty.

If you vote for Barack Obama, you are also voting for the electoral voters pledged to the Democratic Party. These electors are selected by the party due to their activism or faithfulness to the party. They are expected to, but not required to vote with their party. Electors who don’t are called faithless voters. At least two dozen states have laws in effect to ensure the faithfulness of the electoral voters, some including misdemeanor charges. There are 538 possible electoral votes; this number is based off of the United States Congress (435 Representatives and 100 Senators) with three votes representing Washington, D.C. To be elected president, the candidate must receive the majority of the electoral votes (270). 

The electoral voters cast one vote for the president and one vote for vice-president. If neither presidential candidate has a majority, the U.S. House of Representatives selects the president. The Senate selects the vice president if neither vice presidential candidate gets a majority. In 48 states, the electoral voters all vote for the candidate who won the popular vote in that state. This is called the “winner take all” system. Maine and Nebraska give one electoral vote per congressional district popular vote winner and two votes to the statewide popular vote winner. 

The 2008 election was the first time either Maine or Nebraska split its electoral votes — Nebraska split its votes 1-4. This CNN electoral map shows their projections and you can also look up your own predictions. 

So regardless or your opinion on politics, get out and vote today (for president and your party’s electors)!

 

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