There is one day to go until the presidential of 2012. But despite what many say and a fewer number want, the United States is not a democracy. It was never meant to be. Instead it is a democratic republic. We elect people who make decisions for us. Perhaps one of the most misunderstood ways in which this happens is through the election for the president.
The popular vote does not matter. If the popular vote did matter, Al Gore would have been elected president in 2000, not George Bush. Instead, your state’s electors matter because they belong to something called the electoral college. Different states have different numbers of electors (loosely based on their political representation in Congress). Given which states are certain to vote for President Obama (Illinois) and Governor Romney (Georgia), there are only a few states that are available for either to win (Ohio).
Different combinations of states can be had to reach 270 electoral college votes, which is the number necessary to become president. While Governor Romney might be able to make 50.1% of the national vote, as this interactive piece from the New York Times shows, his path to 270 votes is very narrow and he cannot stray too far and still hope to win. And it is because of this fact (generally speaking) that many, e.g. Nate Silver of the New York Times, are saying that a re-election of President Obama is far more likely than a Governor Romney victory.
There are two ways to really play with it. First, select different states and see how many different routes are left open to Governor Romney. The second is to leave the selections blank and then follow the flow chart given by the New York Times.
Credit for the piece goes to Mike Bostock and Shan Carter.