Tomorrow, tens of millions of Americans will go to the polls to decide whether to give Barack Obama a second term as President, or to turn the job over to Willard Mitt Romney, formerly the governor of Massachusetts, but also known for his work at Bain Capital and with the 2002 Winter Olympics Organizing Committee. If Obama wins and then serves out his full second term, it will be the second time in our history that there have been three consecutive 8-year presidencies. The first time this occurred was in the early 1800's with Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and James Monroe. If Romney wins, he will become the first challenger to unseat an incumbent president since Bill Clinton defeated George H. W. Bush in 1992, and the first Republican to do so since Ronald Reagan defeated Jimmy Carter in 1980. It seems that Romney is doing well in the polls, but the only poll that counts is the one we have tomorrow.
Strictly speaking, we don't really choose the president. In each state, we choose a set of Electors that will be sent to the Electoral College, where they will elect the president. Each state gets a number of Electors equal to its total representation in Congress. The smallest (by population) states have three, equal to its two Senators plus its single Representative in the House. Due to a Constitutional Amendment, the District of Columbia is given the number of Electors it would have, if it were a state. With two notable exceptions, a state's set of Electors is determined by the total popular vote in the state, with the winner taking all. Maine and Nebraska each determine two Electors, corresponding to their Senators, according to the statewide popular vote, with their other Electors determined by the popular vote within each Congressional District. I have even heard some prognosticators say that Obama will carry Maine, but one of its Districts and thus one Elector could go for Romney.
There are several states that could go either way, but Maryland is a virtually certain Obama carry. Although we did elect a Republican governor (Bob Ehrlich) a few years back, the state is overall very "blue". My presidential vote will presumably be overruled by my state's pro-Obama voters. Even so, there are still many "down-ticket" races and referendum questions that deserve my attention, such as in-state tuition for illegal aliens (known under the politically correct euphemism "undocumented immigrants"), granting civil marriage licenses for gay couples, and an expansion of legalized gambling. I thus have ample reason to get my big feet down to the polling place. Like the right in general, I will be pulling for Romney to unseat Obama, even though my own vote may have little consequence. But whether you're in a narrowly contested "swing" state, or one that is solidly in one camp or the other, voting is still one of the most important things a citizen of this republic is allowed to do. So whether or not you agree with my choices, if you're eligible, get out there and cast your vote. After all, in some parts of the world, voting as we know it doesn't exist.