In 2000, the Florida recount, hanging chads and criticism of the Electoral College sent the nation into a frenzy when Gore and the Democrats lost on election day. Don't expect tonight to go any smoother. This race has been neck-and-neck. Despite liberals' hopes and dreams, Obama is not going to pull out a landslide victory. In fact, thanks to the Electoral College system, I think he will lose the popular vote but still secure the presidency.
What a lot of Americans don't know (or fully understand) is that when they cast their vote for president today, their vote does not go directly to the candidate they marked on their ballot. Instead, it goes toward an elector who, one month later, will officially elect the president. The number of electors in each state is equal to their representatives in the House and senators in the Senate, for a total of 538 possible electoral votes. In order to win the presidency, a candidate has to secure a majority (270) of these electoral votes, but the system leaves no requirements for the popular vote. In all but two states, these electoral votes are awarded as part of a winner-take-all system, meaning that even if a candidate wins the popular vote in that state but an extremely small margin, he will still be awarded all of that state's electoral votes.
Take Ohio, for example. Many experts predict that Ohio will decide the election. With the added confusion of 200,000 provisional ballots in the state, who wins Ohio could prove to be tricky. Say Obama wins Ohio by only 500 votes. He would still be awarded Ohio's 18 electoral votes, theoretically winning him the election. This winner-take-all system, along with its tendency to favor swing states, is one of the many criticisms of the Electoral College. When the vote of a citizen in one state is given more weight than a citizen in another, there is the very real possibility of electing a president who does not win the popular vote.
There have been three elections in which the president has lost the popular vote but won the electoral vote — 1876, 1888, and 2000 — and this could be the fourth.
I hope that Obama wins the Electoral Vote and Romney wins the popular vote. Not to get revenge for 2000, not so that we have a president that does not represent the national will of the people, and not because I am President Obama's biggest fan, but because perhaps it will take two elections in just over a decade to ignite a widespread movement for electoral change.
If you are truly comfortable with electing a president indirectly, placing power in the hands of people in a few states, and (if you live in a state that is historically red or blue) throwing away your vote, then by all means, argue that we should maintain the electoral college. However, in maintaining this system, we lose our right to present ourselves as the epitome of democracy. Electing the president should not be this complicated; it should be done by popular vote.
I hope that an upset election this year will finally give us the momentum and drive to change the system.