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Find Out How The Electoral College Works

Posted November 6, 2000

— As we vote for the president and vice president, we think we are voting for our candidate of choice, but that is not exactly the case. We are really voting for the candidates' electors.

TheElectoral College Web sitetells the story. North Carolina has 14 electoral votes from each party elected at district and state levels.

Four years ago, Bob Dole and Jack Kemp carried North Carolina in a losing cause, but just who were the fourteen electors who cast their votes in the electoral college? You probably have never heard of them, but they cast your votes for you based on which candidates won the popular vote.

"Who are these people? It's an honor. They give it to you, they give it to me. At that point, you have a piece of power," says Dr. Abraham Holtzman, Professor Emeritus at N.C. State.

North Carolina electors must vote for the popular vote winner, or they will face a fine and jail time. A candidate needs 270 of the 538 electoral votes to be elected. With the electoral college system, if you happen to vote for the losing candidate in your state, your vote really does not count.

"Republicans are going to capture the state, I'm sure, for Bush," Holtzman says. "I'm a Democrat. My vote is not going to count at all because whoever has the most popular votes gets everything."

Would it be wise to elect the president and vice president by popular vote the way we do representatives and senators? Holtzman says perhaps but that would mean candidates would have to campaign more, and Libertarian and Reform Party candidates would have a better chance.

Plus, a constitutional amendment would be tough to get through a two-party Congress.

Electors meet Dec. 18 to select the president and vice president. Congress meets in a joint session January 6, 2001, to count the electoral votes.


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