How America votes

October 25, 2008 12:00 am

, BALTIMORE, October 24 – As Americans go to the ballot on November 4 to vote for the country’s 43rd president, the politics of the day may have changed but the electoral process remains the same.

The country’s next president will be voted in the same way George Washington, the first president, was elected in 1789 through Electoral College votes.

"The Electoral college has the last say in the presidency," Baltimore City Board of Elections Director, Armstead Jones told Capital News in an interview in the US city.

Each state has its own number of electoral votes based on the total number of representatives and senators.  Presently, there are 538 votes in the Electoral College which include three from the District of Columbia.

"The electors are chosen on the day of the general election, and then meet in December to cast their votes," Mr Jones said.

This year they will meet on December 15 to cast their ballot for the president who has to win 270 of the votes to be Head of State.

"Whereas some States are a winner takes all, some are divided, but like in Maryland whichever candidate wins here takes all the electoral votes," Mr Jones added.

But the system which was formulated by America’s founding fathers as a compromise between the election of a president by popular vote and the Congress is controversial because it is possible for a candidate to lose the popular vote and still be elected president by the Electoral College.

This has happened four times with the recent one being in the year 2000 when the then Democratic candidate, Al Gore won the majority popular nationwide vote with a margin of close to half a million votes against his rival George W. Bush. But Al Gore lost in the Electoral College vote garnering 266 votes against Bush’s 271.

The latter was declared president.

"I think the Electoral College is alright except when we manipulate the election so that even if a candidate won the popular vote it’s taken from them through the college," Professor Ronald Walters, a renowned international Political Scientist told Capital News.

Professor Walters says the popular vote plays a major role in instructing the electoral vote because a candidate has to have over 50 percent of the popular vote in order to get the State’s electoral vote.

However Mr Jones opines that it is unfair when the majority of the people speak but lose in the Electoral College.
"But the Electoral College is part of the constitution of the United States and only the US congress can amend it," he said.


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