Question about electoral votes

topic posted Wed, November 7, 2012 - 10:58 AM by  Unsubscribed
II enjoy the intelligent opinions of the people who contribute to this website. Someone posted on my facebook that our votes don't count, only the electoral votes count. They said voting is set up to placate the citizens. I hope this isn't true. I feel empowered when I vote.
Can someone please clarify this? Thank you.
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  • Re: Question about electoral votes

    Wed, November 7, 2012 - 1:20 PM
    I think the original idea behind the electoral college was to increase the power of the vote in low population density areas. If it were purely a popular vote election, California and New York would determine the results everytime. This allowed low population states a bit more influence and high ones a bit less, so people in places like Wyoming and Montana would have a say....this is all based on the assumption that regional votes would be motivated by the same for example urban voters would not be so concerned about agricultural issues.

    Not sure it works though. I think a popular vote is more representative of the will of the population as a whole. Local issues are more expressed at the state and county levels anyhow. California and New York, by virtue of having more people, should have more say.
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    Re: Question about electoral votes

    Wed, November 7, 2012 - 2:46 PM
    by Marc Schulman

    The Electoral College was created for two reasons. The first purpose was to create a buffer between population and the selection of a President. The second as part of the structure of the government that gave extra power to the smaller states.

    The first reason that the founders created the Electoral College is hard to understand today. The founding fathers were afraid of direct election to the Presidency. They feared a tyrant could manipulate public opinion and come to power. Hamilton wrote in the Federalist Papers:

    • Re: Question about electoral votes

      Wed, November 7, 2012 - 3:45 PM
      it's an archaic system that should be abolished but it's highly unlikely it ever will be because small states will crow about it till the cows come home.

      there have actually only been 4 instances in the history of the presidency where someone other than the popular vote winner becomes president.
      • Re: Question about electoral votes

        Wed, November 7, 2012 - 3:59 PM
        Four is four too many, I think.
        • Re: Question about electoral votes

          Fri, November 9, 2012 - 2:24 PM

          Here are the four elections when the candidate who led the popular vote did not win the office:

          1824: John Quincy Adams received more than 38,000 fewer votes than Andrew Jackson, but neither candidate won a majority of the Electoral College. Adams was awarded the presidency when the election was thrown to the House of Representatives.

          1876: Nearly unanimous support from small states gave Rutherford B. Hayes a one-vote margin in the Electoral College, despite the fact that he lost the popular vote to Samuel J. Tilden by 264,000 votes. Hayes carried five out of the six smallest states (excluding Delaware). These five states plus Colorado gave Hayes 22 electoral votes with only 109,000 popular votes. At the time, Colorado had been just been admitted to the Union and decided to appoint electors instead of holding elections. So, Hayes won Colorado's three electoral votes with zero popular votes. It was the only time in U.S. history that small state support has decided an election.

          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.

          2000: Al Gore had over half a million votes more than George W. Bush, with 50,992,335 votes to Bush's 50,455,156. But after recount controversy in Florida and a U.S. Supreme Court ruling, Bush was awarded the state by 537 popular votes. Like most states, Florida has a "winner takes all" rule. This means that the candidate who wins the state by popular vote also gets all of the state's electoral votes. Bush became president with 271 electoral votes.

          Today, a candidate must receive 270 of the 538 votes to win the election, so George W. Bush won the 2000 election by one electoral vote. In cases where no candidate wins a majority of electoral votes, the decision is thrown to the House of Representatives by virtue of the 12th Amendment. The House then selects the president by majority vote with each state delegation receiving one vote to cast for the three candidates who received the most electoral votes.

          Here are the two elections that were decided by the House of Representatives:

          1801: Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr, both Democrat-Republicans, received the same number of electoral votes, despite the fact that Burr was running as a vice presidential candidate, not for the presidency. Following 36 successive votes in the House, Jefferson was finally elected president.

          1825: As mentioned above, Andrew Jackson received a majority of the popular vote over John Quincy Adams, but neither man received a 131-vote majority of electoral votes needed at the time to claim the presidency. Adams won the House vote on the first ballot.
  • Re: Question about electoral votes

    Wed, November 7, 2012 - 11:30 PM
    Around the year 2000 a TV commentator (name long forgotten) said that if not for Electoral College there would be some states where Presidential candidates wouldn't need to campaign at all because they were simply not populous enough to matter.

    Regarding the Founding Father's second reason, I think it possible that they might have used Gaius Julius Caesar as an example of a tyrant who was immensely popular with the masses after writing his account of his Gallic conquests. The Senate feared him and he was assassinated, leading to more Roman Civil Wars, and all this centuries before even the printing press was invented.
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      Re: Question about electoral votes

      Thu, November 8, 2012 - 5:47 AM
      Thank you all for your answers, you always come through for me. I love this website, I learn a lot.
      • Re: Question about electoral votes

        Sat, November 10, 2012 - 1:50 AM
        You are welcome, Soakie, although none of us could really answer the question as to whether our individual votes count. We're kind of like pennies. At one time a single penny would buy something, but now a certain number of pennies are needed before they can buy anything.

        I think it may be possible that a single vote could swing an entire district and tip an election, and if so it's rare, but one never knows when the fickle finger of fate will place one in the position to make that difference, thus encouraging everyone to vote just in case. Unlike you, I don't really feel empowered when I vote. It's more like I let myself off the hook with the knowledge that I did all I was able to do, regardless of the outcome.
        • Re: Question about electoral votes

          Sat, November 10, 2012 - 9:49 AM
          It's definately a cumulative effect, but I think the value is more in certain states.

          I live in California. It's pretty much a sure thing that the dem will always win, and we are on the west coast so our state is among the last to vote. Typically, the election is decided even before the count starts here as was the case on Tuesday. There are alot of folks who say they don't even bother then..but that is silly IMO.

          First of all, there is MORE than the presidency at stake. There are local elections. I voted for San Diego mayor this time around. There are the props. The Senate. Congress. And if everyone figured it was a dem lock, the republicans may win because dems don't think they have to show...California does have 55 electoral a real close election it could actually matter.
  • Re: Question about electoral votes

    Mon, November 12, 2012 - 10:28 AM
    The short answer is, quite a lot. First the bad news. With 100 million voters, your chance that your vote will be decisive—even if the national election is predicted to be reasonably close—is, at best, 1 in a million in a battleground district and much less in a noncompetitive district such as where I live. (The calculation is based on the chance that your district’s vote will be exactly tied, along with the chance that your district’s electoral vote is necessary for one party or the other to take control of a house of congress. Both these conditions are necessary for your vote to be decisive.) So voting doesn’t seem like such a good investment.

    But here’s the good news. If your vote is decisive, it will make a difference for 300 million people. If you think your preferred candidate could bring the equivalent of a $50 improvement in the quality of life to the average American—not an implausible hope, given the size of the Federal budget and the impact of decisions in foreign policy, health, the courts, and other areas—you’re now buying a $1.5 billion lottery ticket. With this payoff, a 1 in 10 million chance of being decisive isn’t bad odds.