The President of the United States is elected every four years by the United States Electoral College, a group of 538 representatives whose votes are guided by the votes of U.S. citizens from the states they represent. Each elector represents a portion of a state's population. Nearly all U.S. states use the "winner take all" system, so if a candidate wins the majority of votes in a particular state, they receive the entirety of that state's electoral votes. 270 electoral votes are required to win a US presidential election.
Swing states, sometimes called "battleground states" or "purple states", in reference to a mix between Red (Republican) and Blue (Democrat) states, are states that do not typically show strong support towards a single candidate or political party over another. Because they are relatively unaffiliated, swing states tend to receive much more campaigning and media attention than the so-called "safe states", those that typically show overwhelming support for a particular party.
10. Iowa (6 Electoral Votes)
Iowa has voted Democratic in five of the last six elections, although these elections have generally been close. Barack Obama defeated Mitt Romney by 52% to 46% in 2012. Between the Civil War and 1988, however, the state nearly always chose a Republican candidate. Slow population growth has caused the state to lose more than half of its electoral votes since the 1920s, but the closeness of Iowa's general election results and the high visibility of its caucuses give Iowa the ability to strongly influence presidential elections.
9. Nevada (6 Electoral Votes)
Although it has historically voted Republican, a population boom over the past several decades has placed Nevada squarely into the swing state category. Its economy took a big hit during the recent housing crisis, and unemployment rates remain high. Nevada's casino and hotel industries, major sources of employment within the state, are obviously associated with Trump. However, the state has a tradition of being anti-establishment, and citizens may choose “none of these candidates” as a voting option, giving them ample opportunity to cast a protest vote.
8. Colorado (9 Electoral Votes)
Voting demographics are almost perfectly divided in Colorado, with one-third of Coloradans being Republican, one-third Democrats, and one-third unaffiliated. Because neither party has an advantage in Colorado, the state's electoral votes will be hotly pursued by both candidates.
7. Wisconsin (10 Electoral Votes)
Although Wisconsin has elected a Democrat in every election since 1988, the 2000 and 2004 races were extremely close. Obama won by 56% in 2008, and only 53% in 2012. Labor disputes over collective bargaining gave Wisconsin a high profile during the last election, and it will certainly be a talking point for both candidates this year.
6. Virginia (13 Electoral Votes)
Reliably Republican for more than 50 years, recent explosive population growth in Northern Virginia has considerably changed the state's electorate. Elections were very close in 2008 and 2012, and the upcoming election will likely be similar.
5. North Carolina (15 Electoral Votes)
North Carolina has historically been a solid Republican state, so it came as a surprise when Barack Obama won in 2008. However, in the subsequent election he was defeated by Republican Mitt Romney. With its newly-minted swing state status, North Carolina will be receiving plenty of campaign attention this year.
4. Michigan (16 Electoral Votes)
Michigan has been staunchly Democratic since 1988. However, the Rust Belt state's huge reliance on the manufacturing industry may give Donald Trump an advantage due to his policies on trade and the economy.
3. Ohio (18 Electoral Votes)
Ohio earned its reputation as a swing state in the 1980s, and elections have typically been very close there for decades. George W. Bush defeated John Kerry by a slim 2% margin in 2004. Barack Obama won the state with only 51% in the past election, and recent poll results show a tie between the two current candidates.
2. Pennsylvania (20 Electoral Votes)
Pennsylvania has voted Democratic since 1992, and it hasn't typically received the campaign attention of most other swing states. However, with its relatively high number of electoral votes, and the growing cultural divide between white-collar city dwellers and Pennsylvanians in the western, Appalachian region of the state, Pennsylvania may become the state to watch in 2016.
1. Florida (29 Electoral Votes)
Registered Democratic voters outnumber Republicans by roughly 200,000, but it's the three million independent voters that make elections so interesting in Florida. These voters are younger than the stereotypical Florida retiree, some are new to the area, and many of the new Hispanic voters have less traditional political leanings than their parents' generation. The Clinton campaign has been heavily investing in media ads, while Trump supporters have been focusing on small, grass-roots campaigning. Only time will tell which tactic is more effective, but it's certain that Florida will continue to receive a large amount of campaign attention leading up to the next election.
Swing States With The Most Votes In The 2016 U.S. Presidential Elections
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