What is it?? Text book definition: A unique American institution , created by the Constitution, providing for the selection of the president by electors. Simpler Definition: States put in the final vote for president based on their individual population’s majority vote.
How it works… States are given a number of electoral votes equal to the number of members in Congress (# of Representatives + # of Senators) Ex. Wisconsin has 8 Representatives and 2 Senators. Therefore, Wisconsin has 10 electoral votes. A candidate must receive a majority of at least 270 electoral college votes to win The states have their general elections, and by the winner-take-all rule, the majority vote of that state’s population gets all the votes of the electoral college. This is what happens in 48 states, but there are two outcasts who think differently…
Maine and Nebraska The overall state majority vote winner gets the two Senate electoral college votes. Each congressional district in the state is given one electoral college vote and the winner of the majority of that district gets the vote. Ex. Nebraska, 2008: John McCain won the two Senate electoral college votes for the overall state and also two of three congressional districts and Barrack Obama won the third congressional district.
Activity: Mac vs PC Get up and go sit next to someone at a different table that you aren’t next to right now. Everyone will be split into groups of 4 (2 groups) or 5 (2 groups) and assigned a state. Each group pick one person to be the group leader. The states are: -Group 1 (5) -Group 2 (5) -Group 3 (5) -Group 4 (Nebraska) (5) Now vote for Mac or PC and your group leader will record the results and figure out who gets the electoral votes. If you’re Nebraska, three people will represent a congressional district, one electoral vote each. Group leader will report electoral college results to the class.
Who Won? The electors get together in their respective state capitol buildings and send in their votes to the vice president. The votes are then counted when the new congressional session opens in January and results are reported back by the vice president. If a majority is not met by any candidates, the House of Representatives vote for the president, choosing between the top three electoral vote winners. Each state gets 1 vote. This has not been done since 1824.
What About the Small States? Every state automatically gets 2 electoral votes for each Senator, but the rest is based on population. This causes less populated states, such as Wyoming, to be overrepresented. These smaller states, however, tend to be very useful for a candidate if they win a most of them.
What are elections supposed to accomplish? Elections are supposed to accomplish 2 tasks… Select the policymakers Shape public policy through those policymakers
Problems with elections Voters are not always able to control public policy through elections
Candidates don’t always make their views on public policy known. They will often avoid answering controversial questions so as to keep undecided voters from thinking less of them.
Policy is only affected when a candidate offers a plain choice to voters. (Ex. Ronald Reagan)
How do policies affect elections? People often make voting decisions based on the policies the incumbent has supported. If they feel that the policies of the incumbent are working then the incumbent will most likely be re-elected. If they feel the policies of the incumbent are not working well they will often elect the opponent. This is called retrospective voting. 2010 House Map 2008 House Map
How do policies affect elections (cont.) Politicians going against an incumbent will often blame any current problems such as the economy on the incumbent. Usually in times of economic troubles, voters will turn to new leadership and for that reason incumbents will have a hard time getting re-elected.
Elections and the Scope of government Voters know that they can throw the government out at the next election and therefore feel that the government is more responsive to their needs. This is what makes democracy successful. The people feel that the government is serving them as opposed to the people serving the government such as in a dictatorship or monarchy. Voters like to be able to send a message to their government via elections.