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Views are mixed on Electoral College

November 08, 2000

Views are mixed on Electoral College



How could Americans vote for a president and still not know, a day later, who won? How could one candidate get more votes and be in danger of losing?

Eventually, either George W. Bush or Al Gore will be declared the next president, but it could take days to recount votes and sort out challenges.

What exactly happened on Tuesday? Bush, the Republican governor from Texas, and Gore, the Democratic vice president, ended the race in a virtual tie. They received almost the same number of popular votes cast by people in all 50 states - more than 48 million votes each.

In the latest figures available Wednesday, Gore had slightly more popular votes than Bush. But even if he holds onto that advantage, that doesn't necessarily mean he wins.

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The reason for that goes back more than 200 years, when the men drafting the Constitution decided that presidents wouldn't be elected according to the total national popular vote. Instead, the winner in each state receives votes from the so-called Electoral College, based on the state's population.

Overall, there are 538 electoral votes, and a candidate must win at least 270 of them to get to the White House. The race in Florida was too close to call, leaving its 25 electoral votes - and the outcome of the election - in doubt until officials complete a recount.

Once the popular vote in presidential race is tallied, the decision goes to the Electoral College.

Although federal law does not require electors to vote for the candidate who picked up the most votes in their state, electors are generally selected by the parties, and those connected to the candidate who wins the state are generally those who will cast the electoral vote.

At the Dec. 18 Electoral College sessions, the electors' votes are recorded on a "certificate of vote."

Congress then meets Jan. 6, 2001, to conduct its official tally of electoral votes. The results are entered into the journals of the House and Senate.

- AP and Knight Ridder

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