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Valley Life

*foot notes

November 03, 2000|JAMES E. FOWLER

On Tuesday we practice a traditional four-year ritual of our democracy--we elect our next president. As most social studies students can tell you, the American president is not elected by popular vote, but by the Electoral College. It was created by the Founding Fathers as a compromise between those who wanted the president chosen by the Congress and those who wanted the president chosen by popular vote. No constitutional provision or federal law requires electors to vote in accordance with the popular vote in their state. Each state has the same number of electors as its congressional representatives in the Senate and the House combined, making a total of 538 electors. A presidential candidate must win 270 electoral votes to be elected. If no one achieves a majority of electoral votes, the House of Representatives elects the president. The vote would be taken by state, with each state delegation having one vote.

* Twice in our history, a candidate lost the popular vote, but won in the Electoral College. In 1876, Samuel J. Tilden beat Rutherford B. Hayes by some 250,000 votes nationwide, but Hayes squeezed by in the Electoral College, 185-184. In 1888, Grover Cleveland, the sitting president, won the popular vote by about 95,000 votes, but Benjamin Harrison became president.

* John Kennedy defeated Richard Nixon in 1960 in a close race--by 119,000 popular votes, 303-219 in the Electoral College. Contrary to some popular myths, even if Nixon had won Illinois' 27 hotly contested electoral votes he still would not have won the presidency, falling short 276-246.

* Today's economy is strong and President Clinton is leaving office while still relatively popular with the American public. He is the first Democratic officeholder to leave the Oval Office after an eight-year run enjoying both popularity and good health since Andrew Jackson in 1836.

* Have you misplaced your sample ballot and you're not sure where your neighborhood polling place is? Los Angeles County has a Web site to help. Go to http://polling.co.la.ca.us/locator/, type in your address and you'll have your answer.

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