Electors representing the candidate who prevails in Georgia’s popular vote will then cast their votes as members of the Electoral College on Dec. 17.
A state’s electoral votes are equal to its Congressional delegation. Georgia has 14 members of Congress and two senators, thus the state has 16 electoral college votes.
There are a total of 538 electoral votes, and a candidate must win a majority, 270, to become president.
Each political party selects its own electors, even though only one group will actually cast electoral votes. Cobb is home to three of the state’s Republican electors — Randy Evans, Sue Everhart and Toria Morgan — and four Libertarian electors.
Like most states, Georgia is winner-take-all state, which means whoever wins the state’s popular vote gets all 16 of the state’s electoral votes. Only Maine (4 votes) and Nebraska (5) allocate electoral votes through a combination of overall popular vote and by Congressional district.
Because Georgia is a solidly Republican state, the candidates haven’t spent any time campaigning here.
“We’ve done our job too well,” joked east Cobb’s Sue Everhart, chairman of the state’s Republican Party. “I wished I could have put together a Romney rally for the people, but there’ll be plenty of time after he’s president to show his appreciation for what Georgia has done.”
Everhart, though, is not taking anything for granted.
“If our people stay home, we lose,” Everhart said. “It is not over until 7 p.m. on Nov. 6.”
Toria Morgan of west Cobb is also a Republican elector, which she called a “tremendous honor.”
“It’s something that so few people ever get to do,” she said.
Presuming Republican Romney prevails in Georgia’s popular vote, she and the other GOP electors will meet at the state capitol on Dec. 17 to cast their ballots. On the same day, electors in the other 49 states and the District of Columbia will also be casting their ballots.
“The popular vote nationally means absolutely nothing in picking a president,” said Andrew Pieper, Ph.D., an assistant professor of political science at Kennesaw State University. “It has no impact on the outcome of the election at all.”
Although a nationwide popular vote may sound like a better way, logistics make it less so, say Pieper and another political scientist, Carl Snook, a lecturer at Southern Polytechnic State University.
“If you use any other system, it would make your state less important compared to other states,” Snook said. “Winner-take-all means your state is as powerful as its size. … It’s designed to overrepresent small states. Wyoming has 1 congressman and California has 53, but add their two senators. In the Electoral college, California is only 18 times more powerful than Wyoming.”
GOP electors Morgan and Everhart also don’t favor a national popular vote.
“If we did that, the candidates would never go anywhere other than major metropolitan areas, because that’s where the most votes are,” Morgan said.
Everhart, who was elected as chair of the state GOP in 2007, said: “The way our forefathers thought it out is the best way, and I would fight to my death before I would let it be changed.”
KSU’s Pieper would prefer electoral votes be awarded by Congressional district, though he acknowledges that idea has pros and cons as well — and is unlikely to happen.
“The biggest drawback is that we might have 535 potential recounts,” he said. “But at least it allows most states to have competitive districts. … It’s better than the current process where just five to 10 states are all that matter. People in Georgia don’t realize how ignored they are. … But it’s probably not going to happen, because the ruling party in each state would have to give up its advantage.”
A national popular vote, he said, would have even bigger drawbacks.
“What if the vote is less than half a percentage point?” Pieper said. “You’d have to do a national recount, and that would be a logistical nightmare. In 2000, the other 49 states breathed easy. Only Florida had to do a recount.”
Snook, of SPSU, doesn’t favor any system over another.
“There’s no one way to decide who wins that is superior to any other. You set your rules and you play by them,” he said. “In a democracy, you kind of hope the will of the people prevails, then you define what you mean by ‘will of the people.’ The people who wrote the Constitution didn’t think of us as being one political community. They thought of it as a collection of 13 communities working together for the common good.”
The swing states — those whose popular-vote majorities swing between the parties in different elections — are getting all the attention from the candidates.
Pieper, of KSU, said that because of the winner-take-all rules, generally when a state is not close, “there’s no incentive for candidates to go in and try to get a few more votes.”
But Brett Bittner, a Marietta School Board member and a Libertarian elector in Georgia, said he doesn’t like the idea of swing states.
“It discourages people from voting for candidates they believe in,” Bittner said. “I’m going to work hard, regardless of whether (my candidate) is likely to win.”
Morgan, a Republican elector, said it is sad that Georgia isn’t getting more of the “excitement” of the campaign.
“But I think you’d go to bed every night with major heartburn and a headache, if you were having all the ads and robocalls,” she said. “I’m glad we have such a strong Republican base that that’s not necessary.”
Pieper said the grass may always seem greener.
“What’s going on in the swing states is really nasty. It’s not pleasant. I can only imagine the number of phone calls they’re receiving each night during dinner,” he said. “But would they really rather be Georgia where no one pays attention to them at all?”
Snook said Ohio (18 votes) and Missouri (10 votes) are traditional bellwether states, though Missouri has become more Republican in recent presidential contests.
“It’s possible Obama could win without Ohio, but it’s not likely,” he said. “Ohio is going to be necessary for Romney.”
Snook is confident the nation won’t go through another debacle this year like the one in 2000.
“Right now, there’s 1 percent difference between the candidates, but I would be really surprised it that’s the way it ends up,” he said. “In most elections, one side gets momentum at the end. The question is who votes. If we knew who was going to vote, we’d have a really good idea who’s going to win.”
Pieper, though, is not so sure.
“My gut is nervous about this,” he said. “In 2000, the polls were not as close as they are now. … I don’t feel very good about going to bed on Nov. 6 and knowing much more than I know right now. But maybe I’m still suffering from (post tramautic stress disorder).”
If somehow there is a tie in the Electoral College — perhaps if a few electors break the faith and go for Ron Paul, or some such — then the House of Representatives chooses the president and the Senate chooses the vice president. But that would happen in January, after the new Congress is sworn in, Snook said.
The last time the House chose the president was 1824, selecting John Q. Adams over Andrew Jackson, even though Adams got fewer popular votes and fewer electoral votes than Jackson.