As Georgians head to the polls for early voting, some may be tempted to write in a presidential candidate other than Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton or Republican nominee Donald Trump. Dr. Tom Dolan is a political science professor at Columbus State University. He says the traditional electoral college system is used to determine who becomes the next president. But it also knocks the notion that the United States is a pure democracy.
“The concern with the electoral system was that it needs to be kept in the hands of people who were smart enough to vote,” Dr. Dolan said. “That sounds horrible by today’s standards because we want to have as many people voting as we can.”
Presidential candidates must garner a majority of the country’s electoral votes (270 out of 538) in order to win. Alabama has nine electoral votes, while Georgia has 16. Georgia Sen. Josh McKoon explained the process further, saying that each state has a set of Republican, Democratic, or Libertarian electors prepared to vote for whichever candidate wins the state.
“When you’re voting, you’re not just voting for Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton or Gary Johnson,” Sen. McKoon said. “You’re voting for those 16 electors who then vote for those candidates.”
Georgia has about a dozen candidates not on the ballot. They are deemed certified write-ins.
“If you write in that name it will be counted as if you voted for them on the ballot,” Sen. McKoon explained.
However, non-certified write-ins, such as your boss or a religious leader, will not count toward the electoral college vote.
“If you write in Donald Duck or Mickey Mouse, that vote is not counted,” Sen. McKoon said.
While some are calling to tweak the system with the surge of Evan McMullin in Utah, Maine and Nebraska, both exceptions to the rule, offer a glimpse into potential change. Instead of winner-take-all, the electoral votes are split proportionally based on the number of votes.
“If you split those votes in every state then it would make the election a lot more competitive, because it would make the candidates work a lot harder,” Dr. Doland said.