In 5th grade, my history teacher decorated her room in red, white, and blue and told us that it was an election year. Our election for class president was coinciding with the U.S. Presidential Election between Clinton and Dole. I wasn’t really paying attention to anything the teacher was saying about America or politics because I was busy planning my campaign. I knew that if I told jokes in my speech and promised my classmates that we’d have more Sour Punch Straws in the cafeteria at snack break, they’d vote for me. I scribbled down a joke about putting a swimming pool in the middle of the cafeteria. So funny. (I was nerdy, ok?) It seemed so simple. Get people to like you. Bribe them with things they want. Get them to vote for you. In other words – be popular.
I remember the teacher asking, “Carly, do you remember from your text book reading what the electoral college is?”
Because I was a straight-A student, I glanced down at my very organized notebook and read the definition verbatim, “Um….a body of people representing the states of the US, who formally cast votes for the election of the president and vice president?”
“And what does that mean, in your own words, Carly?”
Here’s what makes it confusing. An election seems like it would be a simple popularity contest – a simple tallying of votes. You’d think that getting 3 more cheerleaders to vote for you would clinch your victory. But, the fact is that even if someone wins the popular vote, they can still lose the election. It happened between Bush and Gore in the 2000 Election. Gore won the popular vote, but Bush was elected as President because of his 271 Electoral College votes.
All that matters are Electoral College votes. Yes, it is much more complicated than getting the most 5th grade votes for Sour Punch Straws. But, this whole weird, confusing electoral thing is happening NOW.
According to the polls, Romney is ahead of Obama with 48.7% of the popular vote, while Obama is at 46%. However, Obama is still leading the Electoral College votes at 294, while Romney has 191. The easiest way I can explain it is that when you head to the ballots, your vote is not going toward a general pool of votes. There’s not some kiss-butt class secretary adding check marks next to a candidates name when you place your vote. (I was the kiss-butt making check marks, so I can make fun.) Electoral College votes are handled at the state level. Your vote goes toward your state. Look at it this way. If you live in Florida, a swing state, and most of Florida votes Romney, then no matter how many Floridian votes Romney gets, he wins the “points” for Florida, which are 29 Electoral College votes. Whether he gets every Floridians vote, or just one more than Obama did, he still gets all 29 Electoral College votes.
Your vote matters, but because its done state by state, the most populous states carry the most weight in the election. If our guy gets North Dakota, that’s only 3 electoral votes. If he gets California, that’s 55! So, you see, even though the color red appears to dominate the electoral map at first glance, that doesn’t mean victory for the red. It’s all about winning the state. If you’re a college student and you come from a swing state, make sure you that you vote! For those of you in Colorado, Florida, and North Carolina, every single vote counts. Right now, those states appear yellow. They are toss-ups. This election is close, so you’ve got to make sure that you are ready and prepared to cast your vote.
I’m confident that Romney and Ryan will give me the best opportunity to earn all the Sour Punch Straws I want!
Anybody else craving Sour Punch Straws right now…?