One Equal World

Why We Care About Swing States

Posted on: November 24, 2012

Every election season, we hear about presidential candidates struggling to win over swing states, or purple states. There is a varying number of swing states depending on the individual election cycle. This year, depending on which source you trusted, there were between nine and twelve swing states.


Our system of using Electoral College votes to elect our president and vice president is what makes swing states so important. All states have a certain amount of Electoral College votes to give away, a number directly proportional to population. The candidate who receives the most votes gets all the electoral votes in that state (except in Maine and Nebraska, who use a proportional vote system).


The number of electoral votes needed to win an election is 270. Some states are so strongly Republican or Democratic year after year that often no amount of campaigning will change who wins those votes. Essentially, the swing states represent undecided states that could go either way in an election. That is why so much campaigning is directed at them.


In fact, in 2000, the outcome of the election rested on Florida’s decision, which was extremely controversial due to its lateness, near tie, and subsequent recounts. Florida’s final vote tally did not come in until the morning after the election this year, which was somewhat reminiscent of the 2000 Election. Kendall Coffey, a Miami attorney believes that similar controversy was averted this year because President Obama won the Ohio vote.


Ohio and Florida have been key states in the past two presidential elections, since they have so many electoral votes to award to a candidate. Ohio has 18 electoral votes while Florida has 29. Winning over one or both states could mean the difference between winning and losing the election.


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