A Guide to Election Night for the Non-Political JunkieWritten by Terry Mitchell
Even if you are not a political junkie like I am, you will still probably find yourself glued to your TV set on election night. Obviously, you'll be waiting to find out whether President George W. Bush will be elected or if Senator John F. Kerry of Massachusetts will become our 44th President. Will everything you see and hear that night be interesting? Will it even make sense to you? Well, if all you are interested in is finding out who wins, you may be in for a long and boring night. Volumes of information will be presented that night before a final winner is declared. However, if you know a few things to look for, all of that stuff might make a lot more sense and actually be interesting as well.
For one thing, you need to be aware that there's only going to be a passive emphasis on national popular vote, i.e., total amount of votes cast nationally for each candidate. That's because it doesn't determine who wins - electoral votes do. In every state except Maine, Nebraska, and perhaps Colorado (more on that later), winner of that state receives all of its electoral votes. Maine awards them by congressional district, with other two going to that state's overall winner. Nebraska awards its electoral votes proportionally, based on percentage of popular vote each candidate receives in that state.
The number of electoral votes each state has is calculated by adding number of its congressional districts to number of its senators. The number of congressional districts each state has is based on its population. The more populous states like California and Texas have a lot more congressional districts than more sparsely populated states like Wyoming or Vermont. However, every state has at least one congressional district, no matter how small its population. Every state has exactly two senators. Therefore, every state has at least three electoral votes. In addition to all states, District of Columbia is allotted three electoral votes, even though it has no voting members in Congress.
Many people believe electoral college, system of casting electoral votes to determine outcome of presidential election, is inherently unfair and should be abolished in favor of a system in which winner is determined purely by national popular vote. Of course, it would take a Constitutional amendment for that to happen. Therefore, electoral college is here to stay. Even if such amendment could get required two-thirds margin in House and Senate, it would never be able to get required three-quarters of state legislatures. There are too many small states that would be staunchly opposed to it, as they feel that electoral college allows them to be "players" in presidential election campaign that they would not be in a purely popular vote system. These small states fear that they would be completely ignored by presidential candidates, without electoral college. I fear that they are right.
Many states will be "called", i.e., a projected winner of that state will be announced, by news organizations as soon as polls close in those states. This can be done fairly accurately with use of exit polls, a process by which voters are asked about their decision as they are exiting their polling places. If exit polling sample alone from a given state shows a clear victory for one candidate, they will call that state as soon as its polls close. If exit polls show that a given state is too close to call, they will wait until enough of actual vote count comes in before calling that state. Exit polls are sometimes wrong, though. The most infamous example was Florida in 2000, when it was called for Gore based on exit polling data and some of actual results. After more of actual results started coming in, however, news organizations soon started to realize things might not go in Florida way they had projected, so they soon retracted their call and state ultimately went to Bush.
By way, people who say they never believe exit polls (or political polls in general) will offer two main criticisms of them. The first is: "They've never asked me." In actuality, very few voters are ever contacted by pollsters. Only a very small sample of voters is needed to get a reasonably accurate result, provided it is random enough and varied enough among all demographic groups, geographic areas, etc. To use an analogy that I've often heard, you don't need to drink whole glass of tea to find out whether or not it's sweet. Just a taste will due, assuming glass has been stirred properly. The other criticism is: "They ask intentionally misleading and confusing questions." This is quite true of many political polls. However, main question asked during exit poling is: "For whom did you vote?". I wonder which part of that question people wouldn't understand.
A Clear Direction After Election DayWritten by Angela Winters
Like everyone else, I was confused by vast contradictions of exit polls and actual results of this election. If I were news stations, I would want my money back. For all excitement, waiting and tension, somehow I fell asleep at 10:30. When I woke up at midnight, I was like "Oh hell, here we go." Then, this morning I felt a little better about it. I don't think this will drag out for another couple of months.
My sympathies to those who worked so hard for Kerry. They really did, but I think reality is that country is going in a clear direction. I was surprised, but it's pretty much in plain view. America is moving to right. The White House, The Senate, The House and pretty soon, The Supreme Court is steering us in direction of conservative values. Well, all that except for fiscal conservatism which in my opinion is best aspect of conservativism. Bush's spending is a mess and I'm not talking about war.
If Democrats are going