As Nov. 8 draws near, the remaining presidential candidates and their campaigns are putting in long hours. As of Oct. 26, Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton leads the polls with 46.9 percent of the popular vote, and 332.9 of the 538 and Electoral College vote, according to an analysis published by the poll aggregating website FiveThirtyEight. Clinton’s primary challenger is Republican Donald Trump, who has 43.5 percent of the popular vote, but only 203.8 predicted votes from the Electoral College. To win the presidency, a candidate must get more than 269 votes in the Electoral College.
There are also two notable third party candidates this election – Gary Johnson of the Libertarian party and Jill Stein of the Green party. According to FiveThirtyEight Johnson has 5.4 percent of the popular vote, while Stein’s percentage of the vote is so small she’s lumped in with the ‘other’ category at 1.6 percent. FiveThirtyEight predicts that both candidates have less than one vote in the Electoral College.
Hillary Clinton: Democrat
Stances: She welcomes refugees, wants to help undocumented immigrants gain citizenship, supports LGBT rights, speaks out against racial injustice and supports more gun control.
Controversy: Her use of a private server to conduct government business violated the law, resulting in FBI investigation. Though the FBI declined to file charges, her critics pointed to the situation as evidence that she was untrustworthy. She voted for the unpopular Iraq War, which she called “my mistake,” and people question the circumstances under which her foundation accepted money. She wants to increase taxes for the wealthy.
Donald Trump: Republican
Stances: He calls for action against terrorists entering the country through immigration, proposes that Mexico should pay for a wall between the U.S. and Mexico, and advocates to temporarily ban foreign Muslims from entering the country. He wants to preserve Second Amendment rights and get tough on crime. He wants to reduce corporate taxes.
Controversy: Some see Trump’s lack of political and government experience as problematic. He is known for making controversial comments about LGBT people, immigrants, people of color, and women. He has avoided paying taxes in the past, and won’t release his tax returns, as presidential candidates have traditionally done.
Gary Johnson: Libertarian
Stances: He believes citizens need an alternative to the views of the Democratic and Republican parties. He believes in fewer laws restricting marijuana and abortion, which are traditionally liberal stances, while wanting less government regulation of business and more privatization of government services, which are traditionally conservative views.
Controversy: Critics say a vote for Johnson is a “protest vote” that will undermine more viable candidates on the ticket. He once said that Muslims shouldn’t be allowed to wear burqas, but he retracted that statement. In an embarrassing interview, he said, “What is Aleppo?” revealing a lack of knowledge of the war-torn nation of Syria and foreign policy.
Jill Stein: Green Party
Experience: She’s a physician that served as a Green Party nominee in 2012, and has served on the board of Physicians of Social Responsibility, a nonprofit advocacy group. She was previously elected as representative to the town meeting in Lexington, MA.
Stances: Stein has described the Democrats and Republicans as two corporate parties converged into one, believes in stopping climate change and switching to “green” energy sources, and is a strong supporter of protecting the environment, advocating for the testing of all GMOs and pesticides.
Controversy: Like Johnson, Stein’s campaign is criticized for pulling votes away from more viable candidates. Some criticize her activism as too radical, pointing to her being charged with trespassing and vandalism for spray painting bulldozers at a Standing Rock Sioux tribe’s protest in North Dakota. Having been elected to only one city position, critics say she’s too inexperienced.
“I don’t think that abortion should be an option for women who could have prevented pregnancy, because I’m mostly pro-life. Women who couldn’t control the situation, like rape victims, should be able to choose to have an abortion because it wasn’t by any means their fault. But for women who could have avoided pregnancy and didn’t, I believe they should have to have the baby. If they don’t have the means to take care of it, then there are several other options from there, like adoption. People could probably argue that any woman could claim to be a rape victim so that they could have an abortion, and the only solution I have for that is that there would probably need to be better lawyers for rape victims and less victim blaming for a system like that to work.” – Bethany Michels (Mercy Academy, 15)
“When it comes to student loans, I am a strong supporter of lowering interest rates for students, especially when the
government charges students higher interest
rates than banks. No matter your political
ideology, I would argue that a majority of Americans agree that making money off the backs of our students, while offering highly profitable banks lower interest rates, is simply unacceptable. Education is an investment that greatly benefits our economy many times over and it should not be used as a source of government profit. It seems almost unbelievable that our government charges students more than banks, but they do. This situation makes the influence of money over our political system very clear.” – Liam Spencer (Eastern HS, 17)
“I think that the US should welcome refugees from the Middle East, because even though we’ve had terrorist attacks, everyone doesn’t have the mind to kill. They should have the right to the American Dream and opportunity like the rest of us.” – Karissa Wright (Louisville Collegiate School, 16)
“I believe that it’s everyone’s right to protection. Protection to some people means guns and that’s perfectly okay. People have the right to hunt with guns and go to gun ranges and everything else, but there needs to be restrictions. Last year at my school a student took out a gun at school this was very frightening for students and teachers alike. So I think that while everyone should have the rights to guns some guns just shouldn’t be distributed, ex-assault rifles, because no one has the need for them. Also there needs to be more background checks, and waiting periods.” – Sean Dillon (South Oldham HS, 16)
What’s Your Knowledge about the Electoral College?
A question that nags at people’s minds this time of year is, “Does my vote really matter?” With America’s unique election system, largely based around the Electoral College, the answer is more gray than black or white. Despite the significance of the Electoral College in the American political system, many people remain unaware of its exact origins and function.
In 1787, delegates from each state met in Philadelphia at a Constitutional Convention that would eventually, among other things, decide how America might select their head of state. Originally, the convention was split between delegates who wanted the people to determine the president by a popular vote and those who wanted Congress to determine the president. The founding fathers were wary of a direct democracy, fearing that giving the people complete control through a popular vote might lead to mob rule, and those who held minority beliefs would be oppressed.
The delegates reached a compromise with the Electoral College: a smaller group of educated individuals empowered to elect the president. Political parties choose the electors, who are typically political leaders within their states. Americans influence the outcome of the election by voting for a party’s candidate at the polls. The winning political party’s electors submit votes, typically for their party’s nominee. Kentucky has eight of the 538 total electoral votes. Each state has a formula based on population that determines what percentage of the electorate it is given; this number shifts based on results of the U.S. Census.
The candidate who wins the most popular votes is usually the same person who wins the electoral vote. However, though it is typical for the Electoral College to vote in accordance with the will of the people to maintain a citizen-run government, they don’t have to do so in every state, depending on state law. And sometimes, in close races, a majority of popular votes for one political party doesn’t necessarily mathematically result in a majority of Electoral College votes. In 2000, Democratic Party candidate Al Gore won the popular vote, but Republican Party candidate George W. Bush won as a result of the Electoral College votes. Gore received 540,000 more popular votes than Bush, but since the Electoral College votes were 271-267 in Bush’s favor, he became the 43rd president. The 2000 election was not the first time a president lost America’s popular vote but won the election. The three other instances were with John Quincy Adams (1824), Rutherford B. Hayes (1876), and Benjamin Harrison (1888). Leaders have proposed abolishing the Electoral College over 700 times – without success – in the past 200 years.