After a day full of anticipation, many polls on the East Coast have begun counting their votes. If you've been following the election, you're probably wondering why Florida is so important this year. You'd think that all states are created equally, but while that's true in most ways, it doesn't quite apply when it comes to the electoral college in the United States. As the 2000 election so publicly demonstrated, the next president isn't decided by popular vote. Rather, it's down to the electoral college.
Here's the rundown on electoral votes. In the United States, there are 538 members of the electoral college, which include Senators and members of Congress. In December, they meet to cast their votes for the next president. Although they technically could vote for whichever candidate they want, electors almost always side with the popular vote in their state.
The catch is that each state is assigned a different number of electoral votes based on population. So less populous states — Rhode Island, for example — have fewer votes than a state with more people, like California or Texas. Some of these states have clear voting tendencies, but others can be more difficult to predict. This is where Florida comes in.
With 29 electoral votes, Florida doesn’t have the largest number of assigned votes, but it still wields substantial electoral clout. Winning the state is enough to make or break a presidential candidate's chances, and this has held true in the 2016 election. Unfortunately for the people planning a presidential campaign, Florida is a swing state, meaning it's notoriously difficult to predict which way it will vote. In 1996, it voted for Democrat Bill Clinton; in 2000, Republican George W. Bush won the state by a razor-thin, hotly contested margin. In 2008 and 2012, it turned right back around and voted for Barack Obama. Furthermore, the votes are often close. See how it has a reputation as a swing state?
In fact, Florida is the biggest swing state — that is, it's one of the swing states with the largest number of electoral votes. Other states to watch include Colorado, North Carolina, and Iowa. According to CNN, there are about 4.4 million registered Republicans in Florida and 4.6 million registered Democrats, along with nearly three million independents, so the 2016 election is expected to be a close one. Furthermore, the state has a high population of people who are Hispanic, and it's likely that they will play a role in deciding the election.
Early election results from Florida polls after they closed indicate that the race is, indeed, incredibly close. At this point, however, it's just a waiting game — you might as well sit back and chew your nails with the rest of the country while we wait for Florida's vote to be called.