Nov. 5th, 2008

So it's election day in the United States of America. I've been refreshing my knowledge of how the voting system works, and I don't like it. I was also pretty nervous as McCain has had a consistent lead of a few points all morning, but I see Obama is now ahead.

What's really intriguing me is that people are still voting for candidates other than Obama or McCain, particularly this guy Thomas Stevens (of the Objectivist Party - yes, as in Ayn Rand), who at some points this morning apparently had 4% of the vote. Now, that's probably skewed because it's based on early, partial data, but still - in an election this close, even in one state that's a big margin to steal from the people with a chance of actually winning.

How can anyone do that in America? I like to think of myself as progressive, and I generally vote for the Greens, but I write numbers in all the boxes and I know that if my first choice candidate doesn't get over the line, my vote will still go towards making sure someone I prefer still does. But with American voting, that's not the case - the winner really does take all. In most states, voters aren't even directly voting for a Presidential candidate - they vote for a candidate who will represent their state in the Electoral College, and in most states that means one person gets to cast all the electoral votes for the state, no matter the margin of their win. So, unless I'm much mistaken, 49.999% of a state's population could vote for someone who promised to vote for (say) McCain, but the guy who gets in on that 0.002% margin will still cast all of the state's votes for Obama. No wonder people get rabidly partisan - if you want your vote to really count for anything, you have to persuade other people to vote the same way as you!

I'm going to read up on Maine and Nebraska, who apparently do things differently; I'm not sure if this means they split their college votes or not...

Man, not much work getting done today, is there?

Well, it seems it's all over bar the shouting. I'm keen to see the final swing, and also the makeup of the senate and the house. I'm pretty sure that even despite my interest in this election, I still know more about the Australian political system than the American one.

I found out the skinny on how Maine and Nebraska split their electoral college votes; they don't get many, but 2 of 'em go to the overall winner, plus one to the winner in each "congressional district". Not a huge difference, but slightly better if you're voting against the state-wide favourite.

As for our Objectivist friend, Thomas Robert Stevens, he seems to have dropped off the chart - that 3.8% must have been from some very skewed partial data. Either that, or you just can't trust Fox News, whose interactive map gave me that weird and wonderful number. I wonder which one it is?

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