There’s A Map For That: Electoral College Edition

With the presidential election coming up, the focus is on who’s ahead in the polls. But we all know what matters most is the Electoral College. (Election 2000, anyone?)

As a primer, the Electoral College consists of 538 electors who formally elect the President of the United States. Each State’s allotment of electors is equal to the number of House members to which it is entitled plus two Senators. New Jersey, for example, has 14 electoral votes.

But if you glance at a traditional Electoral College map, you wonder: How did Obama win in 2008? For a visual representation of who’s ahead electorally, you can’t beat a proportional map, like this one:

Courtesy of Paul-Henri Gunan, University of Georgia

For a cool 2012 presidential election simulator based on current polls, click here.

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24 COMMENTS

  1. Without the electoral college only the large states on that map would receive ANY attention or federal pork. The founders were wise.

  2. Not sure anymore needs to be said– RoC is right on the money.

    Conversely though, here in NJ 2012- I know my vote doesn’t matter (either way)– in the general election. But locally, with so few voting in our municipal elections, the prof’s one vote is worth, like, 10.

    The brilliance of the Electoral College is that it makes a Candidate cobble together diverse States to hit 260. With a popular vote only, as Roc stated (and which I, despite my earlier comment, seem to be adding to), the Big States would only matter.

  3. It made more sense when entire states were made up of a handful of rural communities. Now, I’d prefer to see a popular vote. Along with campaign finance reform, an overturning of Citizen’s United, and the elimination of advertising (and I earn my income in that field). Stick to the issues, get rid of the lobbyists, and have a series of televised debates. Too many voters are swayed by the ads of PAC’s – and there’s little or no truth to much of it. The vast majority of citizens aren’t political junkies, most are ill informed, and it’s just too easy for money to buy votes now.

  4. The 2012 election is over. The GOP is already engaged in post mortem bickering among themselves – should be interesting to see where this party goes.

  5. For those of you who say it’s over, remember, Ronald Reagan trailed in the polls, too, up until three weeks before the election, when he won by a landslide. So, lost of stuff can happen between now and November.

  6. JG- You mention Citizen’s United. Moveon.org , ActBlue and public sector unions are similar to Citizen’s United. Would you like to “over turn” them(whatever that means) or just the one’s that lean the way of Republicans? Lobbyists should be out of DC soon, Obama promised to do that in ’08.

  7. I can’t answer for JG herb, but I would like to see all of them out of the business of paying enormous sums with no accountability. That would include the organizations you reference.

    But you’re right. Mitt said he’s clean up Washingon and close loopholes, so those guys are shaking in their Guccis, youbetcha.

  8. Martta – I understand your point, but Romney is no Reagan, and Obama is certainly not the battered President that Jimmy Carter was in 1980.

    Just off of the top of my head : 1) Reagan had huge momentum already in play from 1976 when he almost beat Ford (it was close) 2) Carter was under attack from his own party (Teddy Kennedy) 3) John Anderson ran as an Independent which hurt Carter, 4) The economy was profoundly in the toilet, 5) Then of course there was the infamous Iranian hostage crisis and botched rescue.

    Sure, things could change between now and November, and you or I could single handedly win Powerball between now and then. No offense, but highly unlikely.

  9. So, Herb, if Obama wins, what country would you be moving to? I was thinking South Africa might be a good choice for you: your “Bwaaahaaaahaaa” and “Kumbaya” would fit in nicely there.

  10. “Herb, I’d like to see them all out of the business of advertising for candidates.”

    …second that sentiment, but it may take an act of Congress to achieve – and that’s unfortunately just not going to happen.

  11. (Thanx for the correction, cro. You must feel great catching the mistake- kinda like the little prof when he sees me using a pastry fork with my shrimp cocktail. You might want to train your eye on jerseygurl next to remind her that “lobbying” comes from the First Amendment Right to “petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” And while courts have placed limitations on it, to say – get rid of lobbying- is as silly as suggesting one needs 260 Electoral votes.)

  12. Kit, I’ll be staying in the good old U S of A. Everytime I feel bad I just look at the taxes in Glen Ridge and figure i don’t have things that bad, bwahahahawhabhaa.

    Also, “Kumbaya” is an American folk song . I suggest the next time you attempt to bring racism into the conversation you should do some research. Bwahahahaha.

    I believe Moveon, codepink, citizen’s united, unions et alia have every right to do what they are doing. Though I may not always like it I say fire away…it’s your right.

  13. I guess I feel as good, prof, as you do when you make your rather sad attempts to correct the grammar of other posters.

    Just trying to help you out with the facts is all. You seem challenged on that score quite often. But hey, its all good!!

    I think that JG has a pretty good idea of what the amendment says. At least as good as yours, I’d reckon. And I think that most people who weren’t, oh I don’t know. “nitpickers”, would understand that the Citizens United case and the issues surrounding it go beyond the intentions of the framers. Or at least that’s one view. A totally reasonable one, by the way.

  14. I believe the framers are rolling over in their graves over this decision made by what is an incredibly radical and activist Supreme Court. The whole concept of a democracy starts to fall apart when a lot of money is poured into campaigns specifically meant to misinform or engage in propaganda and I have no doubt our founding fathers did not intend to create a political system that could be hijacked by the rich and powerful. Overall, they sought balance. That’s not what we have now. We are not just an economy, we are a society. David Brooks actually wrote an excellent piece in the Times today about old school conservatives who understood and believed that our government should encourage it citizens to adhere to values that create a strong society – and that a strong society benefitted all the individuals within it. A far cry from where that party stands today.

  15. Neither RoC nor profwilliams has explained why the Electoral College leads to attention or federal pork for smaller states. Perhaps they were thinking of the 2 Senators per state rule (which is not the same thing)? Because the Electoral College allows both candidates to ignore all but the swing states in the general election. No candidates are interested in NY, CA, WY, ID, and many others. Those are all locked up and taken for granted. If there were a national popular vote, which is the only defensible way to run the election, every voter in every state would count equally, and the candidates would conduct a national campaign accordingly. And the chances of an election close enough for a recount would be vanishingly small.

  16. Herb, I think both parties used to understand that we’re all in this together. The fact that Ryan is an advocate of a point of view espoused by a fiction writer who was opposed to collectivism and believed that a man’s happiness was his only moral purpose in life is kind of creepy coming from someone who is running on a ticket as VP.

  17. Electoral college matters aside, I like the map above – showing the states in true proportion based on their populations – it is a much better snapshot of the country.

  18. I leave for a bit and return to find cro labeling his opinion as “reasonable” even though it was rejected by the Supreme Court. By this logic, I guess, separate but equal was “reasonable” too.

    Oh well. Here I thought I had to put away that Benny Hill theme while I read your comments, I guess not.

    @ zoeae, I can’t speak for RoC, but I assumed within his comment that the pork and goodies flow from a party wanting to keep a State in their column. So while we know that the 2 Senator concept allows for smaller states to have the same voice as the bigger ones, to believe that this doesn’t flow to the national party/election is foolish.

    You had to understand this, huh? Or was this a “gotcha!”

  19. @profwilliams: It was not a gotcha. I just fail to see how the Electoral College provides any benefits for small states in contrast to the most intuitive method for electing a President — a national popular vote. Both small and large states get ignored if the expected margin of victory is large enough to make it unwise for either candidate to spend any time there. As can be seen by the candidates’ schedules and advertising budgets, the only states that get attention are swing states. You simply assert that the fact that each state gets 2 Senators “flows” to the national election, and label the opposing argument foolish without support. If you can show me that states like Vermont and Wyoming get attention as a result of the Electoral College (which is RoC’s claim), I will change my mind.

  20. And I leave for a bit and find the prof stating that I found my position reasonable, when in fact I stated that JG’s position was reasonable. It is no longer surprising when you are unable to read and interpret correctly, but it is still cause for some head-shaking.

    And if it is YOUR position that every argument rejected by the Supreme Court is ergo “unreasonable” that you are indeed a horse’s patootie of the first magnitude.

    However, the “separate but equal” (which, by the way, was upheld several times before it was finally rejected) is an outstanding example of your strawman tactic. Good show!

  21. from an op-ed by Lincoln Chafee, lamenting the Rhode Island is ignored under the Electoral College (https://www.nationalpopularvote.com/pages/op-eds/providencejournal_20080808.php):

    The apportionment of Electoral College does not benefit small states. In fact, the apportionment of the electors was a concession to the slave states, who demanded an indirect system that could count enslaved people as three-fifths of a person. While the Electoral College gives Rhode Island a slight mathematical advantage, that advantage does not translate into influence. If electoral votes per capita were any indicator of influence, Wyoming and Vermont would be key players in any electoral math. They are not. Of the 13 small states, only one, New Hampshire, is a swing state.

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