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  • If you watch the news during a presidential election,

  • you'll hear a lot of this:

  • What do the national polls look like?”

  • Hillary Clinton's national lead…”

  • Nationally, Joe Biden is currently ahead.”

  • But these national polls don't actually tell you who's going to win.

  • Throw the national polls out the window, they don't matter at all.

  • What matters are those swing states.”

  • Ah yes. The swing states.

  • Most democracies around the world elect their head of state with a popular vote:

  • So, whoever gets the most votes wins.

  • But in America we do it a little differently.

  • The US is the only country that picks its president

  • using something called the Electoral College.

  • It's made up of delegates from each US state.

  • When Americans vote for president, what they're actually voting for,

  • is who their state will vote for.

  • This is why, every so often, someone wins the presidency

  • without winning the popular vote.

  • That's happened twice in just the past 20 years.

  • The majority of Americans do not like this system, and haven't for a long time.

  • Both political parties have made attempts to get rid of it.

  • So why does the US still use the Electoral College?

  • And who actually benefits from it?

  • The Electoral College is based on how people are represented in Congress:

  • where each state has a number of representatives based on its population,

  • and every state also gets two senators.

  • So, for example, let's look at Texas, which has a huge population,

  • and Vermont, which has a really small one.

  • Texas has 36 representatives in Congress. Vermont only gets one.

  • Representatives in both states each represent

  • roughly the same number of people.

  • In the Electoral College, a state gets the same number of delegates

  • as their Congressional representatives, plus twofor each senator.

  • So Texas has 38 electoral votes. Vermont has 3.

  • But this combination makes the number of people each delegate represents

  • way different between states:

  • In Texas, one electoral delegate represents three times the amount of people

  • as one in Vermont.

  • And that makes each individual person's vote in Vermont a lot more influential.

  • The Electoral College creates discrepancies like this all over the country.

  • A voter in Wyoming is worth three and a half times as much as a voter in California.

  • The winner of the presidential election is the candidate who gets 270 or more

  • of these Electoral College votes.

  • These are the results of the 2016 election, by state.

  • You're probably more familiar with this version of it: a map of red states, and blue states.

  • But this chart tells a different story. You can see that no state is actually all-red or all-blue.

  • But almost every state awards its electoral votes the same way:

  • The candidate who gets the most votes in a state, gets ALL its electoral votes.

  • If they win the state by 1%, they win 100% of the electoral votes.

  • In 2016, more than 4 million people voted for Donald Trump in California.

  • In fact, more people voted for him there than in any other state except for two.

  • But it didn't matter. Hillary Clinton got more votes there,

  • so she got all 55 of its electoral votes.

  • Clinton never even campaigned in California. Polling showed she'd easily win the state.

  • Trump only visited Texas once; he knew he basically had that state's electoral votes locked.

  • But they both visited Florida, 35 or more times.

  • That's because Florida is usually a “swing state”:

  • Polls show that the vote there could swing to one party or another in nearly every election.

  • Trump only won it in 2016 by 100,000 votes, out of more than 9 million.

  • Swing states have changed over time, thanks to shifting demographics and political views.

  • And it's states like these where presidential candidates

  • spend most of their time campaigning.

  • It also means these states have way more influence over the election than these ones.

  • A study found that voters in Michigan had 51 times the amount of influence on the 2016 election

  • as someone from a state like Utah.

  • Voters in states like California, or Missouri, mattered very little.

  • Swing states are where the election actually takes place.

  • They get the attention and the influence.

  • And they only exist because of the Electoral College.

  • It doesn't seem very fair.

  • But the Electoral College has always shifted power

  • away from some people and towards others.

  • It's how it was designed.

  • Back when there were just a few states, not 50,

  • they had to get all the states to agree on the Constitution.

  • One problem: The Northern states, which were largely anti-slavery,

  • wanted only free people to count in the population towards electoral votes.

  • Which they had more of.

  • The pro-slavery Southern states were worried that they would be constantly outvoted,

  • and wanted enslaved people to count in determining the population.

  • As a compromise, they settled on something called thethree-fifths clause.“

  • It established that an enslaved person would only count as 3/5 of a person.

  • In 1800, Pennsylvania, a northern state, and Virginia, a southern one,

  • had about the same number of free people living there.

  • But Virginia was also home to hundreds of thousands of enslaved people,

  • who had no freedom, let alone a vote,

  • and ended up with more votes in the Electoral College than Pennsylvania.

  • That year, those extra electoral votes gave the candidate from Virginia just enough to win.

  • Even after the US finally abolished slavery,

  • and eventually gave Black Americans the right to vote,

  • White Southern leaders found ways to keep them from voting,

  • like with discriminating laws like poll taxes, and acts of violence.

  • This meant they continued to have overrepresentation in the Electoral College

  • on behalf of a large population that couldn't vote.

  • The first time Congress attempted to replace the Electoral College with a simple popular vote

  • was back in 1816.

  • But senators from Southern states blocked it,

  • saying it would bedeeply injuriousto them.

  • In 1969, Congress came even closer:

  • replacing the Electoral College had support in both parties,

  • and even passed the House.

  • But it was blocked again by Southern senators.

  • A senator from Alabama wrote,

  • The Electoral College is one of the South's few remaining political safeguards.

  • Let's keep it.”

  • Why change a system that historically had, and still was benefiting White Southerners?

  • Today, the states that the Electoral College benefits have changed,

  • but it's still making some voters more powerful than others.

  • If we look at the states with a lot of electoral votes, for not a lot of people,

  • and the states with a little electoral votes, for a lot of people,

  • these states are a lot whiter and less diverse than the rest of America.

  • And many of these states are Republican strongholds.

  • These tend to vote Democratic.

  • That's one reason the two most recent Republican presidents

  • have won the Electoral College without winning the popular vote.

  • And since it's currently Democrats that are primarily disadvantaged by the Electoral College,

  • they're the ones leading the charge to replace it with a popular vote.

  • Get rid of the Electoral College, and every vote counts.”

  • But as politics have changed, the people most critical of the Electoral College have, too.

  • In the 1948 presidential election, New York ended up being the major swing state.

  • A Congressman from Texas said, “I have no objection to the Negro in Harlem voting.

  • But I do resent the fact that his vote is worth a hundred times as much...

  • as the vote of a white man in Texas.”

  • Swing states change.

  • What doesn't, is that the Electoral College gives certain people more power to pick the president.

  • And its biggest defenders have always been those who benefit the most from it.

If you watch the news during a presidential election,

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The Electoral College, explained

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    林宜悉 posted on 2020/10/31
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