UT political science professor breaks down the electoral college

UT political science professor breaks down the electoral college system

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"What you see is more and more money being spent in fewer and fewer places," said Anthony Nownes, a political science professor at the University of Tennessee. "What you see is more and more money being spent in fewer and fewer places," said Anthony Nownes, a political science professor at the University of Tennessee.

By GENE PATTERSON
6 News Anchor/Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - On the eve of the presidential election, all eyes are on a handful of states.

Ohio, Virginia, Florida, Colorado and a few others will swing the vote either for President Obama or former Gov. Mitt Romney.

How the rest of us vote may not make a difference because that's the way our founding fathers wanted it.

When they set up our Constitution and specifically how we elect presidents, they set up a two-tiered electoral process.

The popular vote doesn't elect presidents. It elects electors and they elect presidents.

That's why President Obama and former Gov. Mitt Romney and their surrogates haven't visited Tennessee, unless the goal was to raise money, as Rep. Paul Ryan did recently in Knoxville.

Tennessee's 11 electoral votes are essentially already decided. Polls show Tennessee will go red for Mitt Romney.

"There are two states that do it slightly different, Nebraska and Maine," said Anthony Nownes, a political science professor at the University of Tennessee. "But for the most part, it's a winner-take-all system. If you win by one vote, you still get all that state's electoral votes."

That's why presidential candidates are bypassing many states and concentrating their efforts only in states that could still go either way, like Ohio.

"What you see is more and more money being spent in fewer and fewer places," said Nownes. "And in the minds of many, including mine, that is perverse, because you have a few states that may not represent the feelings of the country deciding the president of the United States."

It also sets up the scenario where one candidate could win the popular vote and lose the election. 

It's already happened in our lifetime, in the election between George W. Bush and Al Gore. In that case, Florida decided the presidency.

And it could happen again. 

"People need to think about whether or not they think its fair or it makes sense to have a system where the President of the United States is essentially chosen by a handful of voters in a few states or whether it might be time to think about giving all of us have a voice in the process," said Nownes.

So as you're watching the returns Tuesday night, remember this number - 270.

Whichever candidate gets to that number will be the next president of the United States.

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