Understanding How Your Vote Counts (Or Doesn't)?

Understanding How Your Vote Counts (Or Doesn't)?

If you were to survey a good majority of the population, you may find that most people don't know and/or understand how the election truly works.

HAHAJK .com asked several citizens what their opinion of the electoral college was in regard to the election process and on average received the following three answers: “It’s good I think”, “What the hell is that”, and “get away from me.” You walk into a voting booth, place your vote, grab your "I Voted" sticker and walk out proud. However, whom did you really vote for? A new president or an elector? You voted for an elector, someone who will cast a vote on your behalf.

Sounds confusing? Well, it is confusing. The electors who place a vote on your behalf are part of the Electoral College, the votes that claim the presidency. The Electoral College was brought to light during the presidential race between Gore and Bush in the year 2000. Gore won the popular vote (your vote in the voting booth) and Bush won the amount of votes needed for the country, per the Electoral College.

It seems and sounds unfair, and, basically, it sure can be.


The Electoral College was created by the framers of the U.S. Constitution as a compromise for the presidential election process. At the time, some politicians believed a purely popular election was too reckless and risky. Others objected to the possibility of letting Congress select the president, as some suggested. They believed the popular vote would give too much voting power to a state that was highly educated on the beliefs of only one presidential candidate. Also, due to the differences in each state's population, they wanted a fair representation across the board.

What was the answer? They designed the Electoral College system that allowed voters to vote for electors, who would then cast their votes for candidates, a system described in Article II, section 1 of the Constitution [source: Weingast]. One must remember, there was no TV, Internet, radio or other ways of communicating messages across the country beside newspapers and pamphlets.  For example, the race in 1800 between John Adams and Republican Thomas Jefferson was considered one of the most tasteless in U.S. history. Much of the election was based on stories, rumors, accusations and unforgivable personal attacks. Was the country possible of casting a fair vote? Many did not think so. Are we now? It's debatable. Now we are on information overload and it can make it difficult to believe much of what we hear.

Summary of Process:

The Electoral College consists of 538 electors. A majority of 270 electoral votes are required to elect the President. Your state’s entitled allotment of electors is equal to the number of members in its Congressional delegation: 1 for each member in the House of Representatives plus 2 for your Senators. For information in regard to how many electors your state has, please see this chart: http://www.archives.gov/federal-register/electoral-college/allocation.html

Technically, the Electoral College is supposed to represent the voice of the people in the state, and this is why nominees travel throughout the country hosting caucuses, parties and rallies. This is also why you may see a candidate at your local coffee shop. The electors are supposed to be watching to see who holds the majority of the votes in the state.

Do electors always cast votes according to the majority of the state?

No, they don't, and now some states consider this an issue deserving of fines and punishment. There are 24 states that require electors to vote according to the people. The other states do not, and there have been 156 cases of "faithless voters".

Some examples include the following:

In 1824 Andrew Jackson received a plurality of the popular and the electoral vote, but was not elected President.

In 1876, Samuel Tilden beat Rutherford B. Hayes by 3% in the popular vote and lost the EC by 1 vote.  Louisiana, Florida, and South Carolina were all extremely close, and the board appointed to examine them was composed of 7 Dems, 7 Reps, and 1 Independent; however, the Independent resigned and was replaced by a Republican, so the board ruled that all three states had voted for Hayes.

In 1888, Grover Cleveland was the incumbent President, and barely lost his home state and the election to Benjamin Harrison, who lost the popular vote by less than 1%.

To read about these stories, please visit this site: http://archive.fairvote.org/e_college/faithless.htm

Therefore, tomorrow, if/when you cast your vote, remember you are also voting in good faith that your elector will do the same.

Sometimes, an elector's name will appear on the ballot, other times, they may not. For a list of Illinois electors from the 2008 election, please visit this link: http://www.archives.gov/federal-register/electoral-college/2000/members.html#id

Happy Election Day tomorrow!









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