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Cary Brunswick

October 20, 2012

A 'democratic' system, but with caveats

Some family members from Canada were visiting recently and, confused, said they had heard in the news media that our presidential election hinged on the outcomes in just a few states.

“What’s going on, eh?” they asked.

I explained how each state was allocated points based on population and the election result in each state was winner-take-all for the points. The guy with the most points wins the election.

On top of that, because of voter registration, tradition and polls, the outcome in the vast majority of states is already known. That leaves five or six so-called “swing states’’ where the outcomes will determine who wins the election.

What about in New York, they queried. For whom will you vote?

So, I had to describe how it really didn’t matter whom I voted for, or whether I voted at all, because it’s a forgone conclusion that President Barack Obama will win the points allocated to New York. Since 1956, New York voters have gone Republican only three times: in 1972, 1980 and 1984.

We like to call ourselves a democracy, but it is hard for foreigners — and many Americans — to understand the application of that term when the popular vote does not determine the outcomes of our presidential elections.

The most recent example of a topsy-turvy result was in 2000, when Al Gore garnered half a million more popular votes than George Bush, but lost the “point’’ total. What a disaster that was for our country.

The question lingers: For whom does one vote?

The Canadians were surprised to learn that, in New York at least, there are four candidates on the presidential ballot in addition to Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. Two of them are women: Green Party candidate Jill Stein, and Peta Lindsay of the Party for Socialism and Liberation. Also, we have Libertarian Gary Johnson and Virgil Goode of the Constitution Party.

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Cary Brunswick

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