As all of us know that in order to win the presidency a candidate does not have to win a majority of the popular vote. Just ask Al Gore. Nope, thanks to the Electoral College, that old-timey institution created to stifle democracy in favor of republicanism, every presidential election is simply a race to the magic number of two hundred and seventy electoral votes.
Within this system, states are worth a certain number of electoral votes based on their population. Hence, he who wins California takes home all 55 electoral votes allotted to the state regardless of how close the election was within the state. By comparison, the Dakotas are worth three electoral votes apiece. The effect of this is a sort of proportional representation where a Republican who lives in California might as well not vote for president, and the election itself comes down to just a handful of swing states in which either candidate has a shot, if only he can say the right things and get voters from his party to the polls (or prevent voters from the other parties from voting).
The true “toss up” states in this election include Wisconsin, Iowa, New Hampshire, Colorado, Iowa, Ohio and of course, Florida. Romney leads slightly in Florida, according to an aggregate of the state’s largest polls, while the president leads by at least two points in the remaining states. If this plays out, Obama will walk away from the election with 303 electoral votes to Romney’s 235. Even if Romney wins Ohio and Virginia as well, giving him the three swing states with the greatest number of electoral votes, he will still lose the election with 266 electoral votes. Granted, polls are not the most reliable predictors, mainly because they represent only a small slice of the population. However, Obama’s lead in nineteen, out of twenty, swing states makes it tough to see him losing enough of the electoral vote to lose the election. The question at this point becomes how much of a mandate the president will have in his second term.
If you aggregate the largest national polls, the president will receive roughly 50.5 percent of the popular vote, not exactly a ringing endorsement when compared to the 52.9 percent he won in 2008 (the largest margin in 20 years). In addition, the Democrats are not likely to win the twenty-five seats they need to take back a majority in the House of Representatives, and the Republicans probably won’t win a majority in the Senate. In sum, it looks like both houses of the legislature will see little change.
Whether you’re a progressive hoping to raise taxes on the wealthy or a conservative who wants to repeal ObamaCare, we’ll all be disappointed. With the balance of power as such — a Democrat in the White House and a Democratic senate facing a Republican House of Representatives — the next two years will likely look a lot like the last two, with very little being accomplished, and that’s how the separation of powers is supposed to work.
This election has seen a tremendous amount of corruption. Thanks to the infamous Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission ruling of 2010, corporations and individuals are able to spend as much money as they want influencing politics because their dollars are a form of free speech. You know all those pieces of mail endorsing Abel Maldonado and the commercials claiming Lois Capps is an enemy of Israel? Those are symptoms of a republic becoming a plutocracy (rule by the wealthy).
Many states have enacted laws, aimed at preventing voter fraud, that require people to produce government-issued identification cards in order to vote. Anyone who does not have a government-issued identification card is required to buy one. In effect this is a poll tax. A number of states have had their voter suppression laws struck down by the courts, but in the flurry of misleading media coverage, many people are confused as to whether they can or cannot vote, leaving them vulnerable to harassment at the polls. If you don’t know any better and a poll worker asks you to produce a driver’s license before allowing you to vote, you are in no position to challenge that authority.
The point of all this being that our elections are not nearly as democratic as we’d like to think of them. Whether it’s because of structural problems like the Electoral College or because of pressure exerted from the outside (money), our electoral system is rather anti-democratic, and that’s something to think about when you go to the polls on today, which you should.
Michael Dean may hate the Electoral College more than Gore.
Views expressed on the Opinion page do not necessarily reflect those of the Daily Nexus or UCSB. Opinions are submitted primarily by students.