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Electoral College may seem confusing to some, but it works

[ Return To Senator Roy Dyson's Newsletter ]

Posted on October 18, 2004:

Senator Dyson With the upcoming presidential election expected to be as close or closer than 2000, you are hearing a lot about the importance of “swing states” and the Electoral College.

The Electoral College was created by our founding fathers and has been in existence for 213 years. But little was known about the Electoral College until the 2000 election after Florida’s 27 electoral votes put George W. Bush into the White House.

A lot of people were confused by President Bush’s election, because his challenger, then Vice President Al Gore, received 500,000 more of the popular vote than did Bush. People wondered why Gore, not Bush didn’t win the presidency if more voters voted for Gore.

That’s why you are hearing so much about “swing states.” These are considered to be vital for the next president. Just recently on WTOP I heard NBC Meet the Press moderator Tim Russert say if either President Bush or Senator Kerry wins Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania, they will win the election.

Governor Ehrlich, the first Republican elected chief executive of Maryland since 1966, even told President Bush not to worry about campaigning in Maryland because polls show Kerry with a seemingly insurmountable lead.

So you may question, why even vote? My first answer is because everyone should vote because it is your most sacred right as an American especially now since we have men and women in Iraq and Afghanistan fighting for that sacred vote.

Secondly, polls can be misleading. Even in Maryland, some polls show President Bush running even with Kerry while others predict a blowout.

The electorate in this country is basically split 50-50 between Republicans and Democrats. That’s why the 2000 election and this election will be close once again. A matter of a hundred votes won key swing states for both President Bush and Vice President Gore in 2000. With a tiny pool of “undecided voters” in many states across the country, each candidate will need every vote possible in the votes where polls show each candidate neck and neck. With the exception of a few states, the person who receives the most votes wins all the electoral votes. That is why turnout in the swing states will be so crucial.

I was proud to serve as one of just 10 presidential electors in 1976 when Jimmy Carter was elected president in a very tight contest with then-president Gerald Ford. It was one of the most enriching experiences in my career in public service.

The Electoral College was created 213 years ago by the framers of the constitution over much debate to give smaller states as important a role in electing the president as the larger ones. Since Maryland is a fairly small state (with 10 electoral votes) against the largest including California (55), Texas (34) and New York (31).

The small states realized that if their votes counted, even if they were five votes such as West Virginia or four in New Hampshire, presidential candidates would have to curry favor with them as much as the larger states.

That is why President Bush and Senator Kerry have made several campaign stops to both West Virginia and New Hampshire. Both sides know those states, both considered to be swing states, might make the difference between a four vote loss which was the margin of victory President Bush won over Vice President Gore.

Maryland’s 10 electoral votes are in play as well. The recent polls here showing a tightening of the race. That may have been the reason vice presidential candidate John Edwards made a stop here on October 15.

Senator Edwards’ visit shows that the Democrats feel Maryland is important enough to hold if he hopes to help his ticket to victory. That’s why voting in this Electoral College system is so important.

[ Return To Senator Roy Dyson's Newsletter ]

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