Explaining the Electoral College

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By Special to The Sun


It’s almost over! The election is less than a week away and after that the states will finally go back to a regular color, at least something other than red, blue and neutral. 

Have you ever wondered why all the colors show up almost the same way every four years? I wish there was a quick, easy explanation of the Electoral College, but there is really not, so we will see what we can do.
The Electoral College model that we use addresses a couple of obstacles that the founding fathers faced.  For space sake I’m trying to keep this very simple. First, we should keep in mind that George Washington did not have an iPhone and communication was done through couriers on horseback.  Voting for delegates at a local level was more secure and easier and less open to corruption than counting every popular vote at a national level. This system may not be perfect, but it has worked the way it was intended for the last 225 years with only a few exceptions.  Each presidential election people are chosen as electors for their state.  The number is determined by the number of United States representatives and senators a state has. In Kentucky, we currently have six representatives and every state has two senators, so our elector count is eight. These people pledge to cast their votes for whoever wins the majority vote in this state.  
The elections of 1876, 1888, and 2000 produced an Electoral College winner who did not receive the plurality (relative majority) of the nationwide popular vote.  In the case of the 2000 election, there are fond memories of Florida and hanging chads.  On that night, the results of the election hinged on what happened in three counties in Florida.  It was eventually determined through the Supreme Court that George W. Bush had won the election. The popular vote was won by Al Gore by just over 300,000 votes, but because of the Electoral College, he did not win them in the right places. Of course, this has stirred the storm in redesigning our current system and replacing it with something else.  
There are many ideas on how, with today’s technology, we should change the system.  I will leave it upon you to research the method you like best. Currently the least amount of states it takes to get to the magical number of 270 electoral votes is 11. Those states are California, Texas, Pennsylvania, New York, Florida, Illinois, Michigan, North Carolina, New Jersey, Ohio, and Georgia. If we completely threw the current system out, you could conceivably spend time in the 15 biggest metro areas of the country and win the presidency.  That would leave large numbers of people out of the political process.   If you have to change the system, my thought would be to make it a proportional system.  For instance, in the 2008 election the popular vote totals in Kentucky were Sen. John McCain receiving 57.37 percent and Sen. Barack Obama receiving 41.15 percent. If the electoral votes were split to represent the popular vote, then Sen. McCain would take  five and Sen. Obama would take three. This would encourage the campaigns to at least make some attempt to visit more states, which should lead to more people educating themselves about the issues.   The main goal of any change to our current system should be inclusion. What can we do to make the system better so that more people can exercise their right to vote?  
What can we do to make the system better to insure not only that more people can exercise their right to vote but also that their vote be heard?