By Robert Ross

The Elections Are Coming!

Election 101 Is Now In Session
On election day the voters overwhelmingly select presidential candidate X to be president.  But on inauguration day, candidate Y is sworn into office. How could this be?  In October and November a certain electoral college is referred to repeatedly.  Where is this college located? Do they offer a degree program? What does this college have to do with the election? Two days after the inauguration, both the president and vice president are taken to a nearby star system by an alien space craft; who would become president then?

Since weíre rapidly approaching that day again, I thought it would be fun (and interesting) to have a quick refresher course on the mechanics and politics of elections.  This refresher class is, of course, designed to refresh my memory. You would think having gone through ten or so presidents, that Iíd have this thing down by now, but . . .

Some Colleges Are Not What They Appear
For the sake of simplicity, the college I referred to and the college you will be hearing a lot about this fall, is the electoral college. Itís really not a college at all.  Itís a collector of electoral votes. It is an important set of numbers though, because it determines who will be the next president.  Here is how it works.  Each state has two senators and a number of congressional representatives (California has fifty-two representatives plus two senators).  So,  California represents 54 electoral college votes.  In the days leading up to the election, youíre going to be hearing a lot about the states of California (54), New York (33), Texas (32), Florida (25) and Illinois (22). The reason is, they have the most electoral votes.  There are a total of 538 electors or electoral votes.

Again, for the sake of simplicity, when a presidential candidate wins a state by popular vote, he or she automatically gets all the electoral votes of that state.  So, on November seventh, when all the presidential votes are counted, the candidate with the most electoral votes is the winner, not the candidate with the most votes.  In other words, whoever gets two-hundred and seventy electoral votes is President.  Two-hundred and seventy, thatís the number to watch.  Add  up California, Texas, New York, Florida and Illinois and you get 166.  Five states have well over 50 percent of the voting power.

This electoral vote system doesnít necessarily represent the will of the people. For example, here in the state of California, if your candidate gets one more vote than my candidate,  then your candidate will get all of the fifty-four electoral votes California has to offer.  It is conceivable that in the overall scheme of things, the popular vote may go to one candidate, and the electoral vote to the other.

There have been times in our history when that has happened.  Grover Cleveland, the defeated candidate, polled 5,540,050 popular votes to 5,444,337 for Benjamin Harrison; however, Cleveland received only 168 electoral votes to Harrisonís 233.  So Harrison lost the popular vote election and became president.

Now the big question is, why do we have the electoral college?  And, the answer is . . . I donít have  a clue!  Iíve done my homework, researched the internet, went to the encyclopedia, called my congressman ó asking the big question, ďwhy do we have an electoral college?Ē  The answer I got was insufficient and unsatisfactory. It may have made sense at one time in our history, and Iím sure at election time youíll hear arguments pro and con, but for the life of me, I donít get it.

So . . . given our electoral system, Iíll  be watching the five key states as to which way their electoral votes are going.  Five states with  well over 50 percent of the power to elect the President!

Space Aliens Abduct Prez and V.P.!
Now hereís a subject thatís a lot easier to understand ó alien abduction of our politicians. Just who would take charge of the oval office in the event that the prez and v.p. were to be scooted off to a nearby star system? In this case, the answer makes a heck of a lot more sense than the electoral college issue. In the event of an alien abduction, the Speaker of the House would become president.

Hereís where things get interesting, because that position ó Speaker of the House ó is also up for grabs in this election.  This is a position that wields a great deal of power when it comes to getting things done in the House of Representatives. The new Congress is going to meet the first Tuesday of January.  They are going to elect a new Speaker of the House ó the person who is third in line for the White House.  Depending on your party affiliation, you will want your party to have that position.

So, your vote on November 6 will not only be determining to which candidate California sends its electoral votes, but, if your Representativeís seat is up for election, your vote will be determining indirectly, who will be the president, in case that alien abduction thing happens.

On November 6, remember, your  vote  counts for the fifty-four electoral votes that are up for grabs in California.  And your vote may also count toward electing the person who would be the President (Speaker of the House) in case of . . . well, you know . . . Vote!

Robert Ross can be reached by e-mail at: 

Copyright 2000 by Robert Ross, all rights reserved

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