Monday, 3 November 2008

American Elections

Who's going to the adorn the chair that will more or less control the rest of the world? We just have 2 days more for the US presidential elections. At this point of time, Obama seems to have a strong lead over McCain but no one is discounting the Bradley effect. Well, what is the Bradley effect?

In 1982, Tom Bradley, the long-time mayor of Los Angeles, California, ran as the Democratic Party's candidate for Governor of California against Republican candidate George Deukmejian, who is white. Most polls in the final days before the election showed Bradley with a significant lead. Based on exit polls, a number of media outlets projected Bradley as the winner and early editions of the next day's San Francisco Chronicle featured a headline proclaiming "Bradley Win Projected." However, despite winning a majority of the votes cast on election day, Bradley narrowly lost the overall race once absentee ballots were included. Post-election research indicated that a smaller percentage of white voters actually voted for Bradley than polls had predicted, and that previously "undecided" voters had voted for Deukmejian in statistically anomalous numbers.

But Michelle Obama says that considering the Bradley effect still holds good, her husband would not have even been nominated as the democrats candidate for president. But what does America think? Whom do they think should win this Race? Mr Obama may be leading the popular vote by all opinion polls, but the US presidential election system also has its own quirks; the popular vote does not count.

Well, as we know the American political system does not decide a candidate for the white house based on the votes they garner. For instance, Al Gore had a lead of approximately 50,999,000 votes against George Bush in 2000 but Bush was elected president. Why was that? Because in US it all depends on the electoral college.

The Electoral College consists of 538 popularly elected representatives who formally select the President and Vice President of the United States. In 2008, it will make this selection on December 15. The Electoral College is an example of an indirect election.

Rather than directly voting for the President and Vice President, United States citizens cast votes for electors. Electors are technically free to vote for anyone eligible to be President, but in practice pledge to vote for specific candidates and voters cast ballots for favored presidential and vice presidential candidates by voting for correspondingly pledged electors.

How the system works

When one votes for a presidential candidate, it is really an instruction to the delegates, or electors, in that state to cast their votes for the same candidate. So if one votes for McCain-Palin, for example, one is actually voting for an elector who will be "pledged" to vote for the Republican ticket. The candidate who wins the popular vote in a state wins all the pledged votes of the state's electors.

Each state gets a number of electors equal to its number of members in the U.S. House of Representatives plus one for each of its two U.S. Senators. The District of Columbia gets three electors. How the electors themselves are chosen is determined at the local level by State laws.

Each elector gets one vote, thus Florida gets 27 votes, Ohio 20 votes and a state such as Nevada with five electors gets five votes.The electors are bound, by law and convention, to vote for the candidate who won the popular vote in their state when they meet to elect the president. The Electoral College is based on proportional representation, so that states with bigger populations get more votes.

The state with the highest number of electors is California with 55, followed by Texas with 34 ands New York with 31.

The lowest are District of Columbia, Alaska, Delaware, Montana, Wyoming, Vermont, South Dakota and North Dakota, with three electoral votes each.

The system has its problems. One is the likelihood, though rare, of a candidate winning the popular vote but losing the election as happened with Al Gore in 2000.

Well, let's wait and see if its Obama or McCain.