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Could the candidate with fewer votes become President again?

7:54 PM, Oct 23, 2012   |    comments
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  • Four U.S. Presidents who didn't win the most popular votes: John Quincy Adams (1824), Rutherford B. Hayes (1876), Benjamin Harrison (1888), and George W. Bush (2000).
  • President Barack Obama and former Mass. Governor Mitt Romney
    

ATLANTA -- Many people think their individual vote decides who becomes President, but that's not exactly how it works.

Popular voters chose what are called "electors" from their state and those electors actually decide who the President is.

It's rare, but sometimes a candidate can lose the popular vote, but still win.

So far, it's happened only four times in U.S. history.

In 1824, John Quincy Adams became president despite having fewer popular votes than Andrew Jackson. (He was picked by the U.S. House since none of the 4 candidates in that race got a majority).

In 1876, Rutherford B. Hayes won the most electoral votes even though he had fewer popular votes than Samuel J. Tilden.

In 1888, Benjamin Harrison beat out Grover Cleveland with fewer popular votes, but more electors.

And in 2000, George W. Bush defeated Vice-President Al Gore with fewer popular votes, but more electoral votes.

These days, a candidate needs at least 270 of the total 538 electoral votes to win.

Georgia has 15 of those electoral votes.

Each state has a different number of electors, based on the number of U.S. Senators and Representatives they have, (reflecting 535 members of Congress as well as 3 from Washington, D.C.)

In all but 2 states, electors are supposed to cast all of their votes for the candidate who won their state's popular vote.

With a few rare exceptions, most usually have.

Nebraska and Maine's electors split their votes based on a candidate's proportion of their state's popular vote.

As a sports comparison, just look at the 1996 World Series.

The Atlanta Braves ended up with 28 runs compared to only 18 for the New York Yankees.

Pretend those runs were popular votes.

But the Yankees ended up world champs because they won 4 out of 6 games.

Pretend those games were electoral votes.

Once again this election, some are raising the possibility that President Barack Obama could win re-election with the most electoral votes, even though Mitt Romney might win the overall popular vote.

The original idea behind what's come to be known as the "Electoral College" was so small states would have at least some say in who becomes President instead of the election being decided by the popular votes in just a handful of large states.

But some say it's gotten to the point where many states don't count as much anymore because it's up to a handful of so-called "swing" states to decide the electoral contest.

There have been several unsuccessful attempts over the years to change the system.

Look for some politicians to try again if the candidate who wins this election does it by winning the most games, if not the most runs.

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