Discussion Divas: The Electoral College

Want to know more about the Electoral College? Discussion Divas breaks it down for you in this last pre-election update. (Don’t worry, the Divas will be back after the election.)
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Want to know more about the Electoral College? Discussion Divas breaks it down for you in their last pre-election update. (Don’t worry, the Divas will be back after the election.)


The campaign frenzy hit a high point his week—there they were, the candidates in the rain, in the cold, in balmy Florida weather. Hugging, shaking hands, pointing, smiling, yelling, while some 20 million people cast votes their early, ahead of Tuesday.

As of Friday morning, polling puts Barack Obama ahead of John McCain by an average of 6 points, according to Real Clear Politics. While Obama has polled ahead of McCain for the majority of the last 14 months, for 10 days in September, during the height of the Sarah Palin love fest, McCain was ahead.

And then the market collapsed, and Obama surged. This graph shows the scenario well—check out what happens in mid-September when Lehman Brothers failed and Merrill Lynch was sold to Bank of America (scroll down to see interactive graph once you link out).

Don't forget the Electoral College

Remember 2000? Al Gore won the popular vote but came up just short of what's constitutionally required to win—a majority of Electoral College votes. Let’s review:

The winner needs to collect 270 of 538 Electoral College votes. The Electoral College is made up of people selected by the parties ahead of Election Day to ultimately cast the official vote in December. This is confusing, we know, but this “indirect” and controversial method was created by the founding fathers as a compromise—some didn’t want a popular vote to decide the election.

The 538 number is equal to the number of U.S. senators and representatives, plus three for the District of Columbia. Bigger states like California (55) have more votes than say, Montana (3). If a candidate wins the majority of the popular vote in a state, in almost all cases, he wins all the electoral votes in that state. See how many Electoral College votes your state has.

At this point CNN estimates Obama has 291 Electoral College vote—more than enough to win (some estimates put it higher)—and McCain has 163, leaving 84 up for grabs.

For more on the swing states and to get the big picture, click here.

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