Monday, December 15, 2008

Election Day

Rise and shine, it's election day!

But it's less complicated this time, because only 538 voters need to find their polling places. However, those 538 will need to travel a greater distance, on average, than the rest of us did last month because, this time, the polling places will be the various state capitals.

What all this is leading up to is: today the Electoral College meets and elects the president of the United States. The result, of course, is a foregone conclusion. The majority of the electors will ratify the decision that we collectively made last month. They will elect Barack Obama.

The only open question is whether any electors will stray from the fold, and vote for someone other than their party's nominee. That has happened on rare occasions. Two examples:

In 1972, a Republican elector from Virginia named Roger MacBride voted for the Libertarian candidate John Hospers for president. Of course, it made no difference in the outcome. Richard Nixon had won a landslide victory, and still received 520 electoral votes, which was far more than necessary for victory. But MacBride did make an impact, in that his stunt created more publicity than the fledgling Libertarian Party had previously received. Its vote total went up in subsequent elections, but has generally stayed below 1%.

In 2004, one Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party elector from Minnesota voted for John Edwards for president. Edwards was the Democratic vice-presidential nominee; that elector was supposed to vote for John Kerry for president. No one owned up to it. That vote is generally assumed to have been a mistake in filling out the ballot paper. While the 2004 election was much closer than that of 1972, Kerry fell a few votes short of a majority, so losing one additional vote did not affect the outcome.

We'll find out later on today, whether any such anomalies pop up this year.

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