Wednesday, April 26, 2017

V is for Voting

Bush v Gore 
[December 12, 2000, decision 7-2]

US presidential election laws are somewhat complex, but in general, the popular vote [citizens going to the polls, or mailing in their ballots, and voting] is not to directly elect the president, but to elect the “electors”.  In 48 states and the District of Columbia, the party whose candidate receives the majority of the popular vote is allocated all of that state's electors.  In Maine and Nebraska, the state's electors are divided by Congressional district, so not necessarily all of the electors of those states go to the party whose candidate won the popular vote.

The electors are people who are also elected, and they pledge [altho they are not required] to vote for that party's candidate.  An elector who does not vote as he has pledged, or abstains from voting at all, is called a faithless elector.  In December after the election, the electors gather and cast their votes.  Those votes are counted on January 6 of the following year.  The candidate who has 270 or more electoral votes is elected president.  Inauguration day is January 20 of the year following election.

For example, California has 55 electoral votes.  In 2016, the popular vote in California for president went to Hillary Clinton.  Therefore, the Democratic party received all 55 electors for California.  Those electors gathered in December and voted for president.  They are all pledged to vote Democrat, but are not absolutely required to do so.  Presumably, all or most of them voted for Clinton.

The basic purpose behind the electoral college is to prevent highly-populated states like New York and California from deciding elections.  By use of the electoral college, smaller states [the “flyover” states] have a bigger chance to impact the election.  But it can also mean that the person elected president did NOT receive the majority of the popular vote of the US.  For example, in 2016, Trump received the US electoral vote but not the US popular vote.

In the 2000 election, George Bush and Al Gore had basically tied in electoral votes, with Florida the “swing state”.  Whoever won Florida's electors would win the election.

On November 8, 2000, the Florida Division of Elections reported that Bush won the State of Florida with 48.8% of the vote, a margin of victory of 1,784 votes.  This margin of victory was less than 0.5% of the votes cast, and Florida law required an automatic machine recount. On November 10, with the machine recount finished in all but one county, Bush's margin of victory had decreased to 327.

Al Gore contested the Florida results.  On December 8, 2000 the Florida Supreme Court ordered a hand recount of 9000 contested ballots from Miami-Dade County. It also ordered that every county in Florida must immediately begin manually recounting all "under-votes" (ballots which did not indicate a vote for president) because there were enough contested ballots to place the outcome of the election in doubt. Each county had different rules and requirements for exactly how such a hand recount would proceed.  George Bush filed a request in the US Supreme Court, which granted review and issued a stay of the recount on December 9. It heard oral argument two days later.

The Supreme Court reversed the Florida Supreme Court decision ordering the manual recount, ruling that the recount violated the Constitution's equal protection and due process guarantees, since the methods and standard of manual counting varied among counties. The Court remanded the case to the Florida Supreme Court for remedy, but the required deadline for a recount ended at midnight that same day. The decision effectively ended the presidential election, with victory to George W. Bush.

Florida subsequently changed to new voting machines to avoid punch cards which had allowed dimpled or hanging chads.

Did you guess right?
Here's Thursday's hint - W is for Wade.  Can you guess the case and what it's about?  Leave a comment!


  1. Oh, the hanging chads! I'd forgotten all about that expression till today. I think they made several rounds on late-night comedy TV. Thanks for the reminder, Dena!

    I have found a moment of Internet, but don't get the full throttle till vacation ends. Then I'm getting caught up on the Supreme court. I've loved these, thanks for bringing them to us.

    1. So where are you on your vacation? I'm curious to know of a place in the US without ready Wifi access. Must be hard to find nowadays. Hope you're having a great time.

    2. We were at my sister's house in Palm Coast, Florida. For a couple days we went down to my brother's place north of Fort Lauderdale and he has wifi. But my sister's house near the beach? No dice. We had to drive 20 minutes into Palm Coast to visit the local Starbucks. Really played havoc with the A to Z challenge, lemme tell ya.

  2. Gosh, that is so different to what we do here. No wonder I've always been so confused about your elections! Thanks for the explanation, Dena.

    Federal elections in Australia work like this: We are divided up into electorates and members from the parties run in that electorate. We vote for those members running in our electorate only. At the end, the party who has the most elected members (therefore the majority) is elected to power and the party leader become Prime Minister.

    1. Definitely sounds a lot more understandable than ours!

  3. Thank you for explaining that... I've never understood about the electoral college.

    Impromptu Promptlings
    A to Z Challenge Letter U

    1. I learned more about it than I knew before too!

  4. Well, I finally knew one. And I know the next one too.