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Not Just The Popular Vote: A Student's Guide To The Electoral College

This story was written by Kevin Morrissey, The BG News

Many Bowling Green State University students will cast their votes Tuesday for the next U.S. President, though many Americans do not know how the president is actually selected.

"I don't think that many people actually know what the electoral college does," said Chris Dawson, BGSU freshman.

In fact, the official votes for McCain or Obama will be cast by a group of voters selected by the Secretary of State in December.

Today voters will be selecting members of the Electoral College in the general election.

Once it is determined who gets the most votes, one of two separate slates of electors are chosen, said Jeffrey Peake, associate professor of political science. If McCain wins Ohio a group of Republicans will be the members of the electoral college and vice versa if Obama wins.

Each political party has a separate group of loyal party members ready to cast their vote, Peake said. These voters can hold offices, hold party positions or be large supporters of their party.

He said the Electoral College also makes it possible for the winner of the general election to lose the popular vote.

This has happened three times in history, according to the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration, in 1824, 1872 and 2000.

As a result of the way the election is set up, the campaigning process is run differently from state to state. Because swing states are up for grabs, candidates reach out to voters in these states more so than states traditionally aligned with one party.

Swing states have more influence than other states, Peake said. This ultimately causes the interests of the swing states to take more precedence than the issues of the non-swing states.

Peake gave the example of Ohio and corn production. Since Ohio produces a lot of corn used to make ethanol, it is a more important issue to the candidates.

"With the way the Electoral College is set up, there are really 50 separate elections on election day. Each state is voting for which candidate their state will endorse," said Jake Horowitz, an organizer with Progressive Future, which is a nonpartisan group on campus urging students to vote.

Horowitz thinks the presidential election process should get rid of the middle man.

"I don't like the Electoral College. I feel it is not necessary and can be done away with," Horowitz said.

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