US presidential elections 2016: Which are the swing states and why is Ohio crucial in deciding who wins?

Swing states do not have any one personal favourite party and have the potential to alter the course of the elections in favour or against either of the parties.

Written by Adrija Roychowdhury | New Delhi | Updated: November 7, 2016 5:20 pm
US presidential elections 2016, US elections, American elections, American president, Republicans, Democrats, Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, swing states, Ohio, elections in Ohio, voting in america, world news, Indian Express Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump during third presidential debate. (File Photo)

America is about to go to polls on November 8 to elect its 45th president and every part of the world is awaiting in much anticipation to see if the global economic power goes on to elect its first-ever female president or its oldest president. While there are independent candidates and a couple of other political parties drawing marginal amount of support, the real battle on November 8 is between the Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and the Republican candidate Donald Trump.

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On Tuesday about 120 million people would be voting across 50 states of the US to elect 538 members of the electoral college who in turn would be directly voting for the President in early January. Therefore, in order to win either of the parties would have to win 270 seats, that is one more than half the number in the electoral college.

How are the electoral college votes distributed across each of the 50 states?

Roughly stating, the number of electoral college votes from each of the states depends upon the population of the state. The American government is made up of an upper house (the Senate) and a lower house (the House of Representatives). The number of electors each state gets is equal to the number of representatives from the state in the Senate plus the number of representatives in the lower house. Each state gets two representatives in the Senate and the number of representatives in the house of representatives depends upon the population.

US presidential elections 2016, US elections, American elections, American president, Republicans, Democrats, Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, swing states, Ohio, elections in Ohio, voting in america, world news, Indian Express The number of electors each state gets is equal to the number of representatives from the state in the Senate plus the number of representatives in the lower house. (Wikimedia Commons)

 

Each of the states are given a choice to determine a method of choosing the electors. At present, 48 out of 50 states go with the ‘winner takes it all’ method. This means whichever party gets the maximum number of votes in the state is declared to win all the allotted seats in the state.

How is the Trump vs Clinton voting pattern laid out across the 50 states?

Out of the 50 states, there are 12 which are absolutely in support of the Democrats and and 20 that are in support of the Republicans. Additionally, there are six states that are leaning towards Democrats, while one that leans towards the Republicans. In terms of electoral votes, it can be predicted that Clinton has 219 safe votes and Trump has 164 safe votes. In other words, Clinton needs lesser number of votes from the remaining states in order to reach the winning number of 270 votes. These votes would have to be won from the swing states.

Apart from the states which clearly support one party or the other, there are about 12 states that do not have any one party with an overwhelming majority. These states, which are referred to as swing states have a huge stake in the presidential elections. Together they form 155 votes in the electoral college and in order to win the elections, Trump and Clinton would have to win majority of these votes.

What are swing states?

These states are called so because they swing between the Republicans and Democrats depending upon the election season. They do not have any one personal favourite party that they have been holding on to traditionally and have the potential to alter the course of the elections in favour or against either of the parties.

Swing states are largely determined through opinion polls and results of previous elections. In 2016, the states that are being regarded as swing states include, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Florida, Wisconsin, New Hampshire, Minnesota, Iowa, Michigan, Nevada, Colorado, and North Carolina. These states can be divided into three categories.

First, there are those states which over the years have kept oscillating between the parties. They include Ohio and Florida and these two states are crucial in making the final decision. Then there are those states which have traditionally been Republican but might be swinging in favour of Clinton on account of Trump’s unpopularity. Finally, there are some states which had been won over by Obama from the Republicans in 2008 and 2012 and Clinton would have to hold on to them lest they go back to the Republicans.

Unsurprisingly, majority of the effort in electoral campaigns have had to be concentrated in the swing states on account of the crucial role they play in determining the outcome. Since the other states have already taken clear sides in terms of who they support, campaigning efforts are largely considered futile there.

Why is Ohio so important for winning the elections?

The seventh most populated country of the US carries 18 electoral votes. Since 1964, the state is reported to have voted for the winning party in each election. In fact, it is striking that no Republican has ever become the president of the US without winning Ohio.

The reason behind the crucial position of Ohio lies in the fact that demographically the state is the nearest to representing the overall diversity in the US be it in terms of religion, race, age or economic strata. The diversity of Ohio is reflected in the fact that whenever there has been a close competition between contenders, the election in Ohio has been particularly competitive.

Traditionally though, the state has been leaning somewhat towards the Republicans. This can run in favour of Trump especially considering the fact that a decline in blue collared industries in the region has ensured a support for Trump among those who are suffering from employment issues. On the other hand though, there has been an upsurge of high tech industries in the state and those who have benefited from it are more inclined towards Clinton.

While this is not to suggest that the other swing states not crucial for a Presidential win, but owing to its diversity, Ohio represents the overall political mood in the country and has the potential to determine what America at large wants.