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The Electoral College vs. Popular Vote

As votes continue to be counted in Florida, many are curious how the now-narrow margin of the popular vote in the 2012 presidential election will turn out.

The Electoral College vs. Popular Vote

Though the state's 29 electoral votes won't make a difference in the outcome of the Presidential election, once again Florida has a race on its hands that is too close to call.

All precincts have reported results, but provisional and absentee ballots are still being counted.

Though the final tally won't change the outcome of the election, many are curious as to how the popular vote in the state—and the nation—will end up, once each vote is taken into account.

As of 2:30 p.m. ET on Wednesday, Nov. 7, President Barack Obama had a narrow popular vote lead nationwide, according to the Huffington Post. As of that report, Obama led with 60,193,076 or 50.4 percent to 57,468,587 or 48.1 percent, with most U.S. precincts reporting.

So what is this electoral college?

The electoral college is a process, not a place, according to the U.S. National Archives. The electors are nominated at either their State party conventions or by votes from the state's central committee. 

According to the archives, "Electors are often chosen to recognize service and dedication to their political party. They may be state-elected officials, party leaders, or persons who have a personal or political affiliation with the Presidential candidate."

Voters in each state choose the electors by casting votes for the presidential candidate of their choice on election day, according to the archives. In some states, the names of the electors appear on the ballot below the name of the candidates. The winning candidate in the state's elections are awarded all the electoral votes (except in Nebraska and Maine).

No federal law requires that the electors vote for who the general population voted for. Electors generally vote for the popular vote in their state, however.

How does it work?

A total of 538 electors exist. A majority of 270 decide the presidency. Allocations of electoral votes are based on the most recent census. 

On Dec. 16, the electors will get together to cast their votes. On Jan. 6, Congress will count the votes and make it official. 

Throughout history, four presidents lost the popular vote but won the electoral: John Quincy Adams in 1824, Rutherford Hayes in 1876, Benjamin Harrison in 1888 and George W. Bush in 2000. 

(On a side note: this basically ensures that an independent candidate has no chance of ever becoming president.)

Why does it even exist?

Because, when it was first formed in 1788, information was hard to come by. They didn't want the vote to fall to people who may not know all the facts. Some thought that Congress should select the president, others thought it should be based purely on popular decision. The Electoral College was the compromise. 

The division of electoral votes are as follows:

  • Alabama - 9
  • Alaska - 3
  • Arizona - 11
  • Arkansas - 6
  • California - 55
  • Colorado - 9
  • Connecticut - 7
  • Delaware - 3
  • D.C. - 3
  • Florida - 29
  • Georgia - 16
  • Hawaii - 4
  • Idaho - 4
  • Illinois - 20
  • Indiana - 11
  • Iowa - 6
  • Kansas - 6
  • Kentucky - 8
  • Louisiana - 8
  • Maine - 4
  • Maryland - 10
  • Massachussetts - 11
  • Michigan - 16
  • Minnesota - 10
  • Mississippi - 6
  • Missouri - 10
  • Montana - 3
  • Nebraska - 5
  • Nevada - 6
  • New Hampshire - 4
  • New Jersey - 14
  • New Mexico - 5
  • New York - 29
  • North Carolina - 15
  • North Dakota - 3
  • Ohio - 18
  • Oklahoma - 7
  • Oregon - 7
  • Pennsylvania - 20
  • Rhode Island - 4
  • South Carolina - 9
  • South Dakota - 3
  • Tennessee - 11
  • Texas - 38
  • Utah - 6
  • Vermont - 3
  • Virginia - 13
  • Washington - 12
  • West Virginia - 5
  • Wisconsin - 10
  • Wyoming - 3

What do you think about the use of the electoral college versus the popular vote? Do you think the electoral college should be used to determine future presidential elections? Share your thoughts in the comments section.

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