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Ask Candy: Election politics
October 31st, 2012
06:36 PM ET

Ask Candy: Election politics

With less than a week to go before Election Day Candy answers your questions about Election Day. This week Candy answers five questions from Twitter and one from Facebook on the electoral college, Superstorm Sandy and election predictions. Thanks for all the questions and check back next week for your chance to Ask Candy.

Twitter question from @bigladdertutor
"Pls Expantiate On Electoral College"?
Oh my, you had to ask. Here’s how the two-part election for President works, as set up in The Constitution.

Phase 1: The Popular Vote
In November, Americans go to the polls and vote for their choice for president. But, it is an indirect vote. Technically speaking those votes are for “electors”, the people who will vote directly for President .

Phase 2: The Electoral College
The Electoral College votes in December. (The results are officially announced in The US Congress in January)

There are 538 electors, generally people chosen by their parties. The number of electors in each of the 50 states is equal to the state’s number of representatives in the US Senate and House. (The District of Columbia has 3 electors, but let’s not further complicate this with an explanation) The formula means the most populous states gets the most electors, with no state getting less than 3. (Example: California has two Senators and 53 US House representatives, thus 55 electoral votes) The number of electors in individual states can change every 10 years depending on census reports.

The candidate winning the popular vote in a state (Phase 1) , receives all the electoral votes in that state. (Nebraska and Maine are exceptions, but again, let’s not complicate matters) So, if most Californians vote for President Obama as expected, he receives 55 electoral votes.

Electors are not bound by the US Constitution to vote for the winner of the popular vote in their state, though some are bound by party rule or state law. In any case, an elector voting against the state popular vote is rare.

270 electoral votes are needed to win the US Presidency. If it’s a tie, write me later and I’ll tell you what’s next.

Because of the indirect nature of the popular vote, it is possible for a candidate to win the popular vote and lose the presidency in the electoral vote. It’s happened four times.

Twitter question from @sbsebele

"How does the electorate system work? A layman's link would be great"
See above and for links: here is a quick video explainer from

Plus from the National Archives: What is the Electoral College?

Twitter question from @BenEkelman

"Do you think hurricane sandy just lost the election for Obama and what's up with Mitt Romney campaigning?"
While clearly this storm will have an effect on early voting and even election day voting in some states, I am unconvinced that the overall outcome of the Presidential race will be changed by this storm.

Facebook question from Michael Armstrong Sr.

"With our country over 16 trillion dollars in dept where will the money come from to repair the eastern seaboard?"
Many people are sending donations through the Red Cross and other places. But the bulk of relief comes from federal and state coffers.

Twitter question from @w_cath

"Who will win the election on Nov 6th?"

Twitter question from @pcl116
who wins POTUS

Catherine and Peter – please ask me this a week from today.

Filed under: ASK CANDY! • Candy Crowley • State of the Union
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