Electoral College Part Two

The electoral college is the way the United States Constitution says we should elect our President, but many Americans are helping make one of the country's biggest decisions and don't even know how it works.

There are 535 electoral votes up for grabs this Tuesday. The candidates need 270 of them to become the next Commander in Chief. Each state is given a certain amount of electoral votes based on population. Texas has 34.

Chances are good it's been a while since high school history class, so we hit the streets with one question: "Do you know how the electoral college works?" The answers tell us everything you learned in that history class is long forgotten.

"I probably should know, but I don't.." "Hmm.. No clue." "What is it?" "Not really." "Can you just explain it to me?"

So, we found one man who can do just that. WT political science professor Jim Calvi says, "Look at each election as 51 separate elections. 50 for the states and one in the District of Columbia." Which means a candidate is better off winning fewer, bigger states than more small ones. "The electoral college is not based on how many popular votes you have."

It's a winner take all system. A state's electoral votes cannot be shared by candidates. Just think back to florida in 2000. "500 and some odd votes separating Bush and Gore and yet Bush received all of the state's electoral college vote and Gore received zero."

Assuming the majority of Texans vote for John McCain, 34 electors chosen by the Republican party should cast their ballots for McCain, but that won't happen on Tuesday. "You have the November election of the electors, you have the electors voting in December and you have the ballot being counted and officially declared in January." Given that timeline, how do we know who our president is before January? On Tuesday night, the popular votes are counted and electoral votes are given to the candidates, based on how the states voted. The man with a majority of the electoral votes, 270 of them, is declared the President Elect. In Texas, the electors are not required to vote with the people's choice, but, based on past elections, it's assumed that they will.

In a predominately Republican state like Texas, it's assumed all of the electoral votes will go to John McCain, and none to Barack Obama. Which brings about an interesting question. If you vote for Obama on Tuesday in Texas, does your vote even count? Professor Calvi says as a political scientist, he encourages everyone to vote, but the truth is no, it doesn't count at all. He says in effect, the electoral college system cancels out any minority vote. By the nature of the process, a candidate can receive more popular votes, but still lose the election because those popular votes weren't coming from states with large amounts of electoral votes.