Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Election Day in America

The next 24+ hours ought to be a wild ride!  I voted this morning at about 7:00 am, then made my way to the brand new university bookstore for a celebratory croissant -- er, all-American muffin.  Just my luck, the cafe was closed for a water leak so I ended up in the library with better coffee but inferior baked goods.

Four years ago I was watching election returns from my tiny apartment in Austria -- after months of explaining the election process, dissecting candidate speeches, and debating the issues with my students.

My practical explanation of the electoral college was a stroke of genius.  Most of my students in the BAKIP Liezen (a high school that trained future kindergarten teachers) were girls.  So I divided them into two states, the Blondes and the Brunettes (the two redheads were our presidential candidates).  There were 7 Blondes and 5 Brunettes - based on population, the Blonde state would have more electoral votes and determine the next president.  All the Brunettes voted for Candidate 1 (I think her name was Sabrina) and three of the Blondes voted for Candidate 1.  The popular vote therefore was eight individuals for Candidate 1.  Four of the Blondes voted for Candidate 2, which meant that the majority of the Blonde state voted for Candidate 2. Because the Blonde state had the higher population, their majority vote counted more so Candidate 2 lost the popular vote but won the Electoral College.

After this brilliant demonstration of the drawbacks of electoral college voting, one of my students raised her hand and asked, totally serious: "But, how do they know in the United States whether you're blonde or brunette, and can't you just dye your hair before the election?" (If I may invoke the stereotype, she was surprisingly NOT a blonde!)

So it will be interesting to see what the next 24 hours will bring: what will happen in the swing states and how the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy will affect the voting.  It could be much more controversial than the 2000 election, with disenfranchised voters and the possibility that people in New York (with the highly coveted 29 electoral votes) could get an extra day of voting and knowledge of what's needed to make or break a candidate.  I have a feeling the election won't be decided today or tomorrow.  Any predictions?

UPDATE, Thursday 11/8:  Obama:  332  Romney:  206  -  Florida hasn't yet made their results official but it wouldn't affect the outcome.  The popular vote was much closer than in 2008, and about 10 million fewer people voted (interesting!).  The American people have spoken. Can we talk about something else now? :-)

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