Friday, September 19, 2014

If Scotland used the electoral college...

I stayed up late watching the Scottish Referendum results roll in, which was completely mesmerizing for many reasons.

First of all, they counted all of the ballots by hand -- so many images of large rooms, folding tables, and people of all ages just counting and stacking ballot after ballot. It should have been boring, but much in the same way a dilapidated old castle is amazing and full of history, so were these news feeds.

But what fascinated me most of all was: the lack of electoral college.

For you Scottish and British citizens (see what I did there) reading this, you may already know about the electoral college because the rest of the world generally understands American politics better than the majority of Americans. Quick summary, just in case: it's majority wins in each state. Then a certain number of votes, based on population, go entirely to the winning side. Remember the controversial 2000 election? ...  when the controversy was mostly over ballot fraud in Florida, rather than the fact that Al Gore got more votes than George Bush (50,456,002 50,999,897, a difference of 543,895 votes), but Bush had majority in more states. So he won. Yes, America is weird.

If last night's Scottish election had been electoral college, the Nos would still have won, but it would have looked like a landslide victory -- like the Yeses would have only won the electoral votes from four (out of thirty-two) areas: Glasgow, North Lanarkshire, Dundee, West Dunbartonshire. Here is a breakdown of the votes by region.
The referendum numbers for the popular vote were 45%-55%, but still the difference was only 383,937 votes -- less than the population of Edinburgh (if you're American, less than the population of Omaha).

Yeses: 1,617,989
Nos:    2,001,926
I'm not going to spend time researching the populations of each areas and assigning imaginary electoral votes to each region because, well, I don't get paid for this blog. But if anyone out there wants to do that math, I would be interested.

My point was that it seemed a real possibility of the YESes winning because it was majority rules, which made the ballot-counting all that more interesting to watch -- and made me feel all the more hopeful. At one point when there were only about 1000 votes separating the Nos from the Yeses, my blood pressure got all high and I was wide awake. Then Glasgow came in -- as a Yes, but not by enough of a majority -- and I sighed heavily and went to sleep.

Anyway, it was a very exciting moment in history, and I am very glad it is over. For my son's sake, I wanted independence -- I want him to get a Scottish passport. But moving forward, right?

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