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As you know, we just had a big election.  I ran a marginally successful write-in campaign here in Louisville, collecting about a dozen votes in 5-6 categories (e.g., Kentucky State Senate, Kentucky State House, Soil and Water Conservation Officer, etc.). Big thanks to all my supporters. We should have a BBQ party.

I am currently teaching a US History class once a week.  My students (mostly Romney supporters) will most likely be very rowdy for class today.  Last week I showed them this video concerning what happens if the presidential election ties?

This is very interesting,  although unlikely in a two-party system.  Last night’s election was very close.  It was amazing though that after an estimated $6 billion was spent in campaigning, the election basically changed nothing in the White House, Congress, or Senate.  I do my best to not be political, but I feel like there needs to be some reining in of campaign spending, because right now it feels like all that is being accomplished is this:

OK. Now that my political rant for the day is over…

How does the electoral college work?

This has been answered so many places, but since I put effort into putting together a lecture on this for my US History class, I thought I’d share what I’ve learned.

  • The presidential election is decided based on electoral votes, not a national popular vote.
  • The electoral votes are distributed as follows:

Electoral Map

  • The Electoral College was a compromise by the Founding Fathers between a Congressional vote for president and a popular vote (because they were scared of mob mentality).
  • All states except Nebraska and Maine give their electoral votes in a winner-take-all format within the state
  • This election process was established with the 12th Amendment to the Constitution and requires a Constitutional amendment to be overturned.

There have been a few times that a presidential candidate won the popular vote, but lost the electoral vote.  This most recently happened in the 2000 election between George W. Bush and Al Gore.  It also happened to Andrew Jackson once, but he came back in the next election to win it all. For my class, I decided to give them the results of three recent presidential elections to get a view of how the popular vote and electoral vote work, and to tangibly illustrate the voting tendencies of the country (getting most info from

Reagan vs. Mondale – 1984

Reagan Mondale Election Results 1984

Bush vs. Gore – 2000

Bush Gore 2000 Election Results

Obama vs. McCain – 2008

Obama McCain 2008 Election Map

Notice in this map that McCain took 4 Electoral votes from Nebraska and Obama received 1.  This illustrates well the difference between the usage of electoral votes between Nebraska/Maine and the rest of the states.

Video: How the Electoral College Works

The Electoral College is extremely controversial.  There have been over 700 motions in Congress to change it.  However, since the system is set up by the 12th Amendment, it would take a Constitutional amendment to change it.  Based on the current state of affairs and the history of the United States, I don’t see the Electoral College election system ever being replaced.  I’m not sure if I want it replaced either.  It may very well help protect smaller states and regions from the states with ginormous urban centers pushing their will on everyone else.  I have thought about this system a lot, and I still not know how I would propose to change it (if it should be changed).  So, please do not see this post as a soapbox rant.
So, that’s how the Electoral College works as best as I can figure it.  Let’s all celebrate the fact that we won’t have to deal with anymore political ads for the rest of the year.

Until later friends…



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