Thursday, August 28, 2008

A Comment on the Electoral College

Something caught my eye and I meant to write down my feelings for it quite a while ago. I noticed a strange inconsistency in the electoral college during this year's primaries.

I live in the state of Illinois. I was born on the south side of Chicago (well, in Evergreen Park--close enough). However, I now live in Central Illinois. Farmland. Small towns, for the most part. The district I teach in has an entire enrollment K-12 of about 800 students. I live in a bit larger area, Bloomington-Normal, roughly 125,000 people in these twin cities.

I saw this picture of the electoral college and saw a lot of red. A lot of red. But then I remembered that in the 2004 election, Kerry won Illinois. Kerry is blue. How did Bush lose Illinois with all that red?

Cook County. Chicago.

Kerry won Cook County with 70% of that county's vote. That's a huge margin. The other counties he won by much lesser percentages: Alexander, Calhoun, Champaign (only had 50% to Bush's 49%), Fulton, Henderson, Jackson, Knox, Madison, Mercer, Peoria (by 70 votes), Putnam, Rock Island, St. Clair, and Whiteside. That's only 14 of the 102 counties.

So Kerry carrying Cook County with 70% or 1,439,724 votes to Bush's 29% or 597,405 (because somehow Libertarian Badnarik won 1% or 11,478 votes) was a logistical landslide that was able to help Kerry win the rest of the state.

On a sidenote, Bush won one of the other big counties, Will, with 52% of the vote; DuPage, with 54% of the vote. These are not landslides. Even with the big populations of these counties, those slim percentages didn't help overcome that margin from Cook.

The rest of Illinois' counties are quite small. This is the heartland. This is small town America for the most part. Huge tracts of farmlands between sparsely populated areas. Cook County is a different world, urban and gargantuan. Kids from my school district have specifically said how the times they visited the big city it scared the hell out of them.

My point of all this? Is it fair that one county carries an entire state?

Even when that county is not indicative of the rest of the state?

I know all this is moot. The rules are the rules. Is it right that one urban city overtakes the entire rest of the state? I don't want to take away Kerry's votes--fine, he won the urban area, indicative of Democrats. But could or should those electoral votes be separated?

I don't know. I just wanted to examine for myself how a mostly red state lost to the blues.

It's just something to live in my county, McLean, knowing that Obama will carry Illinois with ease, yet in 2004 Bush won McLean with 58%. Obama will probably lose this county by the same margin. I live in a county that votes Republican yet in a state that will vote Democrat.

Am I adequately represented?

(Information taken from

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