Digging Deeper: Election 101 - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

Digging Deeper: Election 101


(WQOW) -- On November 8, voters will be selecting their next president, senator, or representative. We know that every vote matters, but do we know who we're actually voting for?

More than 200 million Americans will cast a ballot for president, but while they think they are voting for Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, Gary Johnson, or Jill Stein -- that's not technically the case.

"Officially when we vote, we're voting for a list of electors to represent our party. And those electors go to Washington D.C. and cast votes for president," says Dr. Geoff Peterson, UW-Eau Claire Department Chair for both Political Science and History.

Your vote will not go to Clinton or Trump, but rather to John Doe -- and elector. It's a person voters entrust to pick their candidate at the Electoral College. However, the Constitution does not say they have to.

"When they get to the electoral college they are not actually bound by our decision. They can, in fact, vote for anyone." says Dr. Peterson.

In 2000, Al Gore won the popular vote over President George Bush by more than 540-thousand votes. But history books will not remember a President Gore, because he lost in the Electoral College by five votes. So why is the the popular vote not the standard?

"The biggest argument against getting rid of the electoral college comes from the low population states. Because otherwise, what candidate would ever pay attention to Wyoming or Idaho or North Dakota if not for the electoral college," says Dr. Peterson.

Also on the ballot this year, voters in Wisconsin will put a senator into office for six years and a representative for two. Why the difference? You'd have to ask the Founding Fathers.

"House members were supposed to be more responsive to public opinion, so they wanted them to go up for reelection more consistently," says Dr. Peterson. "Senate members were supposed to be more thoughtful, more deliberative, think more long term instead of short term."

We now know who to vote for, but why do we vote in November. For this one, the blame does not fall on the framers, but instead the farmers.

"In 1845, Congress passed a law mandating that it would be the first Tuesday in November after the first Monday, so that way it would fall before winter hit because no one could go to vote because of all the snow, but after fall harvest would be done," says Dr. Peterson.

Making America great again might start with simply boosting voter registration. The United States is lagging behind the rest of the world, ranking 193rd according to the book Selecting a President. In Wisconsin, you are able to register to vote the day of the election. You can find your polling place here.

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