By Maureen Ker
How many votes does it take to win the U.S. presidency? Read an electoral vote map to find out.
Whether it’s choosing the next American Idol or deciding what’s for dinner, making decisions in a group often involves voting for your favorite. Whichever option receives the majority, or more than half, of all the votes is the winner. But when it comes to the U.S. presidential election, the majority vote doesn’t always decide who wins.
Just look at what happened in 2000. It was the closest election in U.S. history. Then Vice President Al Gore received 50,999,897 popular votes (individual votes), while 50,446,002 voted for the then Texas Governor George W. Bush. Yet Bush was the winner. How did it happen?
Simple. The president is elected by a majority of electoral votes, not popular votes. Each of the 50 states and Washington, D.C., is assigned a certain number of electoral votes. The greater the state’s population, the more electoral votes it gets. In most states, the candidate who receives the majority of the state’s popular vote wins all of that state’s electoral votes. * (Chosen electors from each state actually cast these votes in mid-December, nearly a month and a half after the November 4 election. These electors are known as members of the Electoral College.)
In 2000, Bush won 30 states for a total of 271 electoral votes. Gore won only 20 states, receiving 266 electoral votes. ** What does it all mean for Senator Barack Obama and Senator John McCain? They have run their campaigns in an effort to get a majority of the 538 total electoral votes. So in a way, majority does still rule!
*Nebraska and Maine divide their electoral votes by districts within the state.
**One electoral vote was not cast.