Making Sense of the Electoral College

This morning, my son was thrilled to hear that Obama has won another term as President.  His third grade teacher had moved up their lesson on government to align with the election, so the class was very much involved.  They even had their own mock election on Monday.

His teacher had talked a little about the electoral college and the popular vote… genuinely confusing my son.  He was talking yesterday about how when he goes to college his vote will count for President.

Admittedly, I don’t fully understand the electoral vote.  While I do have a PoliSci degree, my emphasis was in Feminist Studies and behavioral science.  But I do know that every four years, the Electoral College brings up a controversial conversation about how we elect our President and Vice President.

After a review of Wikipedia this afternoon, my son decided that the “winner take all” concept of the electoral vote doesn’t make every vote count.  “It’s not fair,” he said.  It’s hard for me not to agree with him.  Living in the “blue state” of California, I get a little tired of candidates only coming to California for fundraising.  While I should probably be very glad that I don’t get overwhelmed with political TV ads, I also have to wonder at how different campaigning would be if every vote counted equally.

If candidates had to campaign for the popular vote, the nine swing states that seem to make or break every election would no longer exist.  Candidates who take my (often) liberal vote for granted in California wouldn’t be able to any longer.  Conservative candidates that often write off California as a blue state would be forced to campaign here too.   It would certainly be a complete overhaul in the system.

Perhaps the outcome of the Presidential race wouldn’t change much.  For my third grader, at least, it would make a lot more sense.  Whatever happened to the person with the most votes wins?  Isn’t that what we are taught about democracy?

Besides, my friends in Ohio could really use the break.

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