Election Actually 50+ Separate Votes
November 01, 2012
Election Day is held
on the first Tuesday in November in the United States. In each of the 50
states, and in the District of Columbia, there are political offices to
fill, ballot questions to resolve, and every four years, the choice of
whom to send to the White House.
The United States Constitution is filled with rights and protections for
citizens. But as Georgetown University professor Mark Rom points out,
voting is not necessarily one of them.
"One would think that the right to vote is just as much a central right
of citizenship as the ability to speak freely, or to worship freely, to
petition the government, and so forth. But, it is not," said Rom.
"Voting requirements are typically established by the states. And, the
states, more or less, can use their own standards."
The minimum voting age of 18 is set by U.S. federal law. But Rom says
otherwise, there is very little uniformity
"There is a patchwork of 50 different states, with 50 different state
laws about the times for voting, the processes for registering to vote,
the places where you can vote, how you can vote by absentee ballot. All
those details of the elections are established by state law, not by
federal law," Rom added.
The absentee ballots that Rom refers to are used by people who are away
from home on Election Day - in the military, for instance, or traveling,
or away at school.
In recent years, something called "early voting" has also developed.
Some two-thirds of the states now allow people to cast their ballots as
much as a month or more before the official Election Day in November.
number of states have now passed laws requiring voters to produce
specific photo IDs at their polling place to prove their identities.
Advocates of these laws say they are necessary to prevent fraud.
Opponents say such fraud is too statistically small to be a problem, and
charge the laws are meant suppress voting.
And there's also another way that a U.S. presidential election is really
50 separate contests - according to the Constitution, people voting for
president are actually selecting 538 people called "electors" on a
state-by-state basis. And it's these people who officially determine who
"The most important number is 270," says George Mason University
professor Dennis Johnson. "And that is the number of electors that will
get you over the top. And, any combination of states that has 270, that
is the magic number that you are really looking for."
Johnson says the Electoral College is why candidates spend most of their
time in a handful of so-called “battleground” states -- the ones they
believe will give them that winning total of 270 electoral votes.