Tracking the Vote

Are you going to try to stay up tonight to see who wins? Good luck. In 2000 it took five weeks to find out that George W. Bush would be the next president.

If you do watch the results come in tonight, you'll probably hear some political jargon that might not make sense to you.

Red states and blue states: How the TV networks keep track of which states each candidate has won. States that vote for President Bush are colored red. Blue states favor Senator John F. Kerry.

Swing states (or battleground states): Very important because winning them can swing the election one way or the other. The swing states most experts are focusing on today are Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania. Whichever candidate wins two of the three is in good shape to win the election.

Popular vote: Total votes cast by people. In the 2000 election, Al Gore had 500,000 more popular votes than did George W. Bush.

Electoral vote: When people vote, they are really selecting electors to the Electoral College, which decides who is president. Each state gets a number of electoral votes based on its population. That's why states with lots of electoral votes are so important. In most cases, if a candidate wins the popular vote in a state by even one vote, that candidate gets all of that state's electoral votes. There are 538 electoral votes, and a candidate needs at least 270 to win the presidency. In 2000, George W. Bush got 271 electoral votes to Al Gore's 266. (One elector did not vote.)

If nobody gets at least 270, the House of Representatives decides the winner.

Tonight's vote tally gives another meaning to red, White (House) and blue.