Red vs. Blue States

Much of the political news in advance of the presidential election here in the United States centers around Red State vs. Blue State analysis. What drives this is the electoral college system we have for electing our president. It might be helpful to remind ourselves how we elect the President of the United States and why.

Presidential candidates need electors to be elected, not votes

We do not elect president by virtue of a winner take all count of votes in the country. Each state is awarded a number of electors. The number of electors is equal to the number of representatives and senators it has in congress. Those electors are pledged to one candidate or another based on a selection process made by the state. How a state determines what candidate gets it’s electors is determined by the state, but in nearly all cases the electors are awarded in winner-take-all fashion following the election. In other words, if Candidate 1 received more votes than Candidate B in the election held in Texas, then Texas would send all of it’s electors in support of Candidate A.

You can win the vote and lose the election

In the year 2000, George W. Bush won more electors than Al Gore and became president in spite of a situation where Al Gore actually received more votes than Bush. This led to a lot of confusion and even more education as to how we elect presidents in this country.

The electoral system exist for a reason

If the President of the United States is elected by a simple majority votes there will be no campaigning in smaller states for the office. The larger states such as New York and California will get all of the focus, since only campaigning in places where you are talking to the most voters will make any sense. In fact, campaigning in large cities would be the only logical place to campaign for president if the electoral system did not exist. The electoral system was put in place to protect the interests of the smaller states in the process of selecting the president. It has worked. Colorado is considered a “battleground” state and is getting plenty of attention from the candidates in this 2008 election despite is relatively small size in relation to our most populous states. If we did without the electoral system, presidential candidates would spend nearly all of their time in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and Houston. Most of Ohio would be fairly ignored, it’s cities are just not big enough. San Antonio would become much more important than Detroit.

If it’s not broken….

Our system of electing presidents has served us well for over 200 years. Perhaps one of the best things the framers of the constitution gave us was making the constitution itself hard to change.