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The Electoral College Explained

by Emily Speelman

The United States is in the last leg of the 2016 Presidential Election and, as November 8 approaches, “The Race to 270” is on. But what does this phrase mean? How does is apply to the everyday voter? And what role does geography play in this race?

“The Race to 270” refers to the number of votes a presidential candidate must win in the Electoral College to secure the presidency. There are a total of 538 members in the college and, to become president, candidates must earn 50% + 1 of their votes. Electors are appointed by their state and the number of electors is equal to their state’s number of representatives in Congress, giving each state a minimum of 3 (accounting for two senators and at least one representative in Congress per state).

Image from National Geographic: http://nationalgeographic.org/maps/electoral-college/

Image from National Geographic: http://nationalgeographic.org/maps/electoral-college/

Rather than voting directly for their desired candidates, citizens cast their ballot to the electors, telling them who to vote for. Based on this popular vote, the state’s electors put all their votes toward the majority candidate. Even if the candidate wins by only 51%, state’s “winner-take-all” policy dedicates that all the state’s electoral college votes can only go to the majority winner.

This applies to all states except Maine and Nebraska, who use Congressional Districts to determine electoral votes. Maine has four electoral votes and two congressional districts: the winner of each district gets at one vote and the statewide winner automatically gets two of the four. Nebraska, with its three electoral votes, has a similar system: the statewide winner gets two votes and the district winner gets the third. It is possible for the votes to split, which is important to note in a close election like this years.

While this sounds pretty straightforward, there are some problems with this system:

  1. Unequal voter power: As previously mentioned, a state’s number of electors is determined by its number of representatives in Congress. With each state getting a minimum of one, the number of house representatives are decided by a state’s total population. By giving each state three electoral votes (to account for the two senators), voting power is unequally distributed amongst the population, which can have a big impact on the election. Votes from states with lower populations (such as Vermont and Wyoming) have more power representation in the Electoral College than their population calls. They receive electoral votes that should belong to states with bigger populations, like California and Texas. Therefore, the individual votes of these smaller population states are giving more weight in determine who their state’s’ electoral votes go.
  2. Problems with a winner-take-all system: The winner-take-all system can greatly misrepresent the popular vote. With this system, the majority candidate in most states gets all of their electoral votes, no matter how much or little they won by. Therefore, the candidate needs to win states votes more than people’s votes.  This can make a massive difference when the nationwide popular vote is calculated, potentially swaying the election results. This occurred in 1876, 1888, and 2000, where the candidate won less than half of the popular vote, but won the election due to the Electoral College’s rules. To see this explained, CGP Grey made video exploring it here.
  3. Missing American Votes: There are a huge amount of American votes missing from each election. Why? This is because US territories are not allowed to vote in the election, with the exception of the District of Columbia (which was only granted in 1964). The territories of Guam, American Samoa, Puerto Rico, Northern Mariana Islands, and US Virgin Islands are not granted Electoral College votes because they are not states. They are, however, US citizens and over 4 million people live here (which is more people than live in the city of Chicago!).

While the Electoral College has its problems, every vote counts in an election. The deadline to register online or by mail in Illinois is October 12 so make sure you are registered and make your voice heard on November 8.

 

Questions about how to vote in Illinois? Click here for a video explaining IL deadlines, absentee ballots, and more!

 

For more information on the Electoral College, see the videos and articles below:

A Breakdown of the Electoral College: http://nationalgeographic.org/maps/electoral-college/

How the Electoral College Works: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OUS9mM8Xbbw

The Trouble with the Electoral Collage: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7wC42HgLA4k

History of US Elections: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=48EZKXweGDo

What’s in a Name? Chicago’s Interstates Explained

by Derek Kaden

The city of Chicago has a number of interstates passing through it, and almost every one has its own name. If you’ve ever heard a traffic report in Chicago, it can sound overwhelming and confusing. Where exactly are all of these sections of interstate, and how did they get their names? Today I put together a map to show you exactly where each part of an interstate starts and stops in Chicago, and I explain where each of these names come from. If you live here, hopefully this alleviates confusion the next time you listen to a traffic report, and if you live elsewhere, you will be a more well-seasoned traveler next time you’re passing through the Windy City.

Chicago's Interstates

Chicago Interstates Map

Chicago Interstate Names Explained

Kennedy – Completed in November 1960, it was originally named the Northwest Expressway until 1963. It was then renamed in honor of recently assassinated President John F. Kennedy.

Dan Ryan – The Dan Ryan Expressway opened in December 1962. It was named after Cook County Board President…Dan Ryan, who was a supporter of expressway construction.

Edens – Named after William G. Edens, who was a banker and advocate of paved roads early in the 20th Century. The Edens was the first Interstate in Chicago, and opened in December 1951.

Eisenhower – First referred to as the Congress Expressway, and later named after President Dwight D. Eisenhower, its first stretch of completion was in December 1954. Famous Chicago journalist Mike Royko called I-290 Chicago’s only Republican Interstate, since Eisenhower is the only Republican political figure after which the Interstates were named. The Eisenhower is also the first Interstate in the United States to be fused with public transit (Chicago’s ‘Blue Line’).

As Interstates are concerned, Eisenhower is the most important name on the list. He signed the Interstate and Defense Highways Act as President in 1956, which rapidly increased Interstate construction across the nation. This Act decreed that the Federal Government would cover 90% of all construction costs, while the State only had to pay 10.

Stevenson – Opened for traffic in September 1964, this Interstate was originally known as the Southwest Expressway. Exactly one year later, the Interstate was renamed after Adlai Ewing Stevenson II. Stevenson was Governor of Illinois from 1949 to 1953. He was also the Democratic candidate for President in 1952 and 1956, where he lost decidedly both times against…Dwight D. Eisenhower!

Bishop Ford – The Bishop Ford is a stretch of I-94 that runs around Lake Calumet and a large industrial corridor on Chicago’s far south side. Christened the Bishop Ford Memorial Freeway in 1995, it is named after Louis Henry Ford, who was a Bishop and an advocate of social justice.

Chicago Skyway – Opened in April 1958, and originally referred to as the Calumet Skyway, this is one of only two sections of Interstate in Chicago that is not named after a person.

I-57 – The only section of Interstate referred to by number. Unofficially, it is called Dan Ryan’s West Leg. But that just sounds a bit…strange.

When is Easter Celebrated…And Where?

For Catholics and Protestants, Easter already happened this past Sunday. However, for Orthodox-Christians it is still to come. Why, you might ask? The reason has to do with the different calendars that Orthodox and non-Orthodox churches follow.

I learned from Kathleen Manning’s article that Pope Gregory XIII decided to implement a new calendar for areas under Catholic influence in 1582, because the old one – the Julian calendar – was 11 minutes too long. To fix this issue of time, Gregory zapped 13 days from the old Julian year which moved the official day of spring – the Spring Equinox – from April 3 to March 21. Now, you may or may not know (I didn’t until earlier today) that Easter always falls on the Sunday following the first full moon on or after the Spring Equinox. Since Orthodox churches follow April 3 as the Equinox, the timing of the full moon can make Easter land on a different day. Last year, for example, there was a full moon on April 15 – after the Equinox date on both calendars – so Easter was celebrated on the same day. This year, because of the timing of the full moon, Easters are separated by a week (the Orthodox one being on April 12)-meaning bonus celebrations for any families that might have a mixture of Orthodox and non Orthodox backgrounds!

In Chicago, there are thousands of immigrants from countries with predominantly Christian Orthodox backgrounds. Check out the Christian Orthodox Countries map below, and whether you’ve celebrated it already or not, happy Easter!

Christian Orthodox Countries Map

Christian Orthodox Countries Map

 

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