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How Are Ohio's Electoral College Votes Decided?

From now through Election Day, ideastream is answering your questions about voting. One listener asked how the state’s electoral votes are apportioned.

Ohio has 18 electoral votes. Sixteen of those represent its congressional districts, with two additional votes provided to every state – just as each state gets two seats in the U.S. Senate.

The state’s electoral votes are not divided based on which presidential candidate wins each district, according to Ohio Northern University Professor Robert Alexander. As a winner-takes-all state, the candidate that wins Ohio gets all 18 Electoral College votes.

“Some people fear that if more states use the district representation method, it could splinter Electoral College votes into more third-party votes,” Alexander said. “It does work to support the two-party system.”

Just two states – Maine and Nebraska – divide their Electoral College votes by district, he said. It’s a move that can change a state previously thought of as an almost definite win for one party into a toss-up, Alexander said, bringing more attention from political candidates while they’re on the campaign trail.

“They moved to district representation because they weren’t getting any attention from candidates, because the outcome in those states was pretty certain,” Alexander said. “[Ohio gets] a lot of attention, so the winner-take-all method of awarding all our electoral votes has not hurt us.”

State officials discussed the possibility of switching Ohio to district representation from winner-takes-all as recently as 2012, he said, but it’s unlikely to happen any time soon.

“Even though you might have a lot of support throughout the state, if you lose by just a few votes, you get no representation at all,” Alexander said. “So there was some discussion of that after the 2012 election, but it didn’t go anywhere.”

Electors used to be listed on ballots as part of the election, like candidates, Alexander said. Democrats and Republicans both run a full slate of 18 electors, he said, but they no longer appear directly on the ballot.

“You could literally vote for the electors right there on your ballot,” he said. “But now, most all states use a short ballot where electors do not appear.”

Voters interested in finding out who the party’s elector for their district is can contact the Ohio Secretary of State’s office, Alexander said.

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