Electoral College How we elect our President in the United States
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- In the US we don't directly vote for a president or a vice president.
- Instead we use something called the "Electoral College"
- The Electoral College...
- So, when you show up to vote on Election Day,
- and Election Day will happen on November of an election year
- and it could happen as early as November 2nd
- and it could happen as late as November 8th.
- And it's going to be the Tuesday after the first Monday in the month.
- So, it'll be November 2nd if the first Monday is November 1st,
- and it'll be November 8th if the first Monday is November 7th.
- And so you go on Election Day and you will see a ballot
- that will have the presidential candidates, it'll have their parties there
- and it'll have the vice presidental candidates
- and you'll vote for one of them.
- But in actuality, when you're voting for candidate A
- and let's say candidate A is a democrat.
- You are not actually voting for candidate A,
- you are actually voting for a slate of electors
- who promised to vote for that candidate.
- So electors for that candidate.
- And it isn't, in most States,
- proportional, based on what proportion of people
- vote for one candidate or another.
- It's in most of the States, except for Maine or Nebraska,
- it is a winner takes all system, so what do I mean by that?
- So, right here we have the break down of the Unites States
- by state of how many electors each State gets.
- And the number of Electors is essentially
- the number of Congressmen that that state has.
- For example: California has 2 Senators
- Every state has 2 Senators
- California has 2 Senators and 53 Congressmen
- and for those of you who aren't familiar with it
- Every state gets 2 senators and
- the House of Representatives is dictated by population
- California is a huge State, 2 Senators, 53 Representatives
- you have Texas: 2 Senators and it has 32 Representatives
- you go to Lousiana: you have 2 Senators and you have 7 Representatives
- So, the Electors per State is based on the total number of Congressmen
- So the number of Senators plus the number of Representatives
- That's what gives us 55 in California,
- 9 in Lousiana, 34 in Texas.
- What is interesting here is it's a winner take all in every state,
- except for Nebraska and Maine.
- In every other state if I get 51% of the vote in Texas,
- I get all 34 electoral votes in the Electoral College
- If I get 51 or ever if I get 50.1%,
- just a slight majority of the votes in California,
- I will get all of the votes for California in the Electoral College,
- and in general, or in actuallity,
- the president is whoever gets the majority
- of the electoral votes in the United States.
- And right now that threshold is
- or that magic number, you could think of it that way
- is 270 Electoral College votes.
- If no candidate is able to hit this threshold of 270 Electoral College votes
- than it'll go to the US Congress
- And in the US Congress it's interesting
- because it isn't one Congressman one vote
- or actually I should say: The US House of Representatives.
- It'll go to the US House of Representatives
- and it won't be one Representative one vote
- what will happen is the Representatives in each State will vote together
- and each State will get only one vote.
- So, in a tie breaker the big states really, really lose out
- because in the tie breaker Texas will get only one vote
- California will get one vote
- and Alaska will get one vote
- and Rhode Island will get one vote.
- So, Rhode Island will have just as much to say in a tie breaker
- as California will over who will be president
- and they'll just keep voting until someone gets
- a simple majority of the votes by state.
- Now, there's one other twist here.
- It's that the District of Columbia
- Washington DC right over here
- in Congress gets no Representatives
- they have no Senators and they have no Representatives
- but they do get 3 electoral votes
- when it comes to deciding who is going to be president.
- Now you might already may be beging to have a sense here
- that maybe this winner takes all system might lead to some distortions
- and the biggest distortion of all is
- you can imagine a candidate who wins
- who wins the popular vote
- and loses the election, or loses in the electoral college.
- And you might be thinking well gee, how can that happen?
- And the way to think about it is,
- imagine someone, let's say someone gets
- with the States that they win, they get huge majorities.
- So lets say there is a conservative candidate,
- and he or she gets huge majorities in the States they win
- 80% in Texas, they get 80% in Mississippi,
- they get 80% in Oklahoma.
- They get huge majorities in the states that they win
- and the state that they lose they barely lose.
- And they barely lose those really big states.
- So let's say in Florida that candidate, I should say,
- gets 49% of the vote.
- So they had a lot of votes in Florida but not
- enough to win it, the other person let's say gets 51%
- all 27 go to the other candidate.
- Let's say the same thing happens in California,
- that candidate got 49% of the vote,
- the opponent, say, gets 51% of the vote.
- All 55 go to California, you get no credit for that 49%
- you get no credit for that 49% in Florida.
- So in this situation, this candidate might actually end up
- with the majority barely losing the states they lose and
- trouncing the other candidate in the states that they win
- but despite that actually getting fewer Electoral College votes.
- Now there's a few clarifications I want to make
- especially ones that have confused me in the past.
- One of them is, because you have
- the same number of Electoral College votes
- as you have US Representatives plus Senators
- there's kind of this feeling that maybe each
- each district sends its own elector to the state capital
- to decide who the president is
- and it doesn't quite work that way.
- So this right here is the panel of electors
- for Louisiana in 2008, and you can see right over here
- each of the parties have their own slate of electors
- and these are either decided by the parties themselves
- or they're decided by the candidates' teams
- and even though you have someone here for each district
- and then you have these at large canidates,
- it's not like, let's take a situation,
- and this actually happened in Louisiana,
- where John McCain got a majority of the state
- so John McCain and Sarah Palin got a majority of the state
- it's not the case that, let's say, in the second district
- which is New Orleans,
- Let's say that the second district the majority of the people
- actually voted for Barack Obama.
- It is not the case that Kenneth Garret in 2008
- would have been the chosen elector.
- Actually, even though they divide things by district
- and they have these at large candidates
- it actually a state wide election.
- So they don't look at who won each of the districts
- they just say, "look John McCain and Sarah Palin
- won the entire state."
- So all of these electors
- are the ones that are going to go
- to the state capital in December
- and decide who they want to plege their vote for
- so even if Obama won
- just the second congressional district
- that's not how it's thought about in the electoral college,
- it's just a state-wide election.
- McCain got the majority of the state,
- all of the electors will be chosen from McCain's slate
- or from the republican party slate.
- And then their gonna go to the state capital
- in the case of Louisiana it would be the Baton Rouge
- and they will decide who they want to plege their votes to.
- And all of the electors in all of the states
- go to their designated location,
- usually the state Capitol, on the same day
- and usually that is some day in December
- and then they pick the president,
- although by that point everyone know who the president is
- because the actual election was in early November
- and people know which way the votes went
- and which way the electoral college votes went.
- Now I did mention that there are two states
- that don't do this winner take all,
- Nebraska and Maine,
- and in Nebraska and Maine
- when you go vote it really is by congressional district
- Nebraska has 3 congressional districts
- so in those 3 congressional districts
- if one of them goes to the democrat
- and two of them goes republican
- then they'll have 1 electoral vote for the democrat
- and 2 for the republican.
- And then they have two at large votes
- that are decided the same way
- the kind of the "winner takes all" basis
- if you take 51% of the vote on a state wide basis
- you get two at large votes.
- Same thing for Maine,
- but Maine has 2 congressional districts
- so 2 of the congressional districts could go either way
- and then the at large are based on a state-wide vote.
- Now you could imagine the other kind of
- unfair thing here other than the popular vote versus the
- you know, the electoral college vote,
- is it, you can imagine it makes some states
- better represented than others.
- So if you just divide population
- by the number of electors,
- you see the larger states each elector
- is representing many, many more people,
- this is California right here,
- Each elector is representing over 600,000 people,
- and in the smaller states,
- this is Wyoming right here,
- each elector is representing under 200,000 people.
- So in Wyoming people are getting kind of
- three times the representation
- as they would in California on a per capita vote.
- What makes it even a little bit more skewed
- because it's "winner takes all"
- and the candidates aren't silly
- and they wanna make sure that they spend their money
- and their visits and their time in the most leverageable way
- it actually creates this weird scenario where
- candidates will often ignore huge part of the population
- and they ignore them because those huge parts of the population
- are unlikely to swing either one way or the other.
- So, for example, California is very reliably democratic
- and Texas is very reliably republican.
- So this right here, this is a fascinating graph
- --at least in my mind--
- it shows where George W Bush and John Kerry
- spent the last 5 weeks of the 2004 election
- --let me close that right there...--
- of the 2004 election.
- This top graph shows where they actually
- spent their time so each these little hands here is a visit
- in those final 5 weeks
- and each of these dollar signs
- is a million dollars spent on marketing and advertising
- and on ads and whatever else in those states
- and you can see California and Texas,
- the two biggest states,
- they didn't spend enough money to threshold
- to get a dollar sign written there
- so they didn't even spend a million dollars
- on these huge states
- they only had a few visits to California
- and Texas,
- Texas had no visits in the final five weeks
- so what happens is that candidates spend
- a disproportionate amount of attention and money
- in the states that are more likely to swing
- one way or another,
- so the people in Florida, or in Ohio,
- --this is all Ohio and Florida--
- got a ton of more attention, especially on a per person basis
- they the people in Texas did.
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