Electoral College

Swing States:

The Electoral College makes electing the president a numbers game. The rule that a candidate must win a majority of the electoral votes, currently 270, means there are limited number of possible state combinations that will help them win the office. It also means that a state like California, worth 55 electoral votes, is more valued than North Dakota, worth only 3.  The most valuable of these populous states are those whose population does not solidly support a single party. Known as swing states, or battle ground states, these states play a pivotal role in how an election is decided. In the 2012 election cycle, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Virginia, Florida, Colorado and Nevada were all considered swing states. Because of the importance of these states, they receive the vast majority of the candidates’ attention. Over 60 percent[1] of all the campaign stops by the candidates in the 2012 election cycle were in these states. Barack Obama’s victory in all but North Carolina, ensured his reelection to the Presidency.

Throughout history, these swing states have been crucial in deciding the final outcome of elections. The most recent example is the state of Florida in the 2000 election. The results of the election were left undetermined for weeks as close results at the polls resulted in numerous recounts. Eventually, George W. Bush was declared the winner, winning by 537 votes out of nearly 6 million. This majority gave him all of Florida’s 25 electoral votes, bumping him to 271 overall and giving him the victory.

In the 2016 election, these same states are expected to be considered swing states. Where do you anticipate the candidates will spend their time?



Electoral College Majority vs. Popular Majority

The Electoral College, not the popular vote, determines who will become the next president of the United States. This means that it is possible that a candidate become president who is not chosen by the majority of the American populace. This happened most recently in the 2000 election, when George W. Bush defeated Al Gore by 271 electoral votes to 266. This was despite of Bush only capturing 47.87 percent of the vote to Gore’s 48.38 percent.

The same situation has played out three other times in United States History. In 1824, 1876, and 1888, the winning candidate did not win the majority of electoral votes. In the election of 1876, Rutherford B. Hayes, the Republican candidate for president, was running against Samuel J. Tilden, the candidate for the Democrats. Hayes was eventually elected, despite losing the popular vote 47.49 percent to 50.09 percent. In 1876, the candidates needed to win 185 votes to have an absolute majority. When the ballot counting was over, Hayes only had 165 to Tilden’s 184, with 20 votes still outstanding. Eventually a backroom deal was struck between the two parties. Known as the Compromise of 1877, which gave all 20 votes in the swing states of Florida, Louisiana, and South Carolina to Hayes in return for removing Union troops and ending Reconstruction in the South. With that deal, Hayes became the new president.

[1] Washington Post