Electoral College 101


The Electoral College is the way in which we elect the President.  It can be found in Article II Section I of the US Constitution and says, “Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors, equal to the whole Number of Senators and Representatives to which the State may be entitled in the Congress: but no Senator or Representative, or Person holding an Office of Trust or Profit under the United States, shall be appointed an Elector”.  Today, the math looks like this; 435 members of the House of Representative plus 100 Senators-2 from every state plus 3 electors from the District of Columbia, equals 538 Electors.  Half of that is 269, so 270 or the simple majority, is the number of Electors needed to win the Presidency.  In case of a tie, 269-269 the process becomes more complicated.  If no Electors change their vote, it goes to the House of Representatives and Senate to decide on President and Vice President.  It’s highly unlikely, so I won’t go in to further detail.  No state receives fewer than three electors.  There are those that consider this system unfair because each person’s vote doesn’t actually count towards choosing the President.  In fact, it’s mathematically feasible to lose the popular vote and win the Presidency.  However, the framers favored this system because they believed two things. First, it would allow the smaller, less populated states, not to be completely dominated by the larger, more populous states.  Second, the electors are not bound by the popular vote to cast their ballots for the popularly chosen candidate.  Therefore, if the candidate chosen by the popular vote favored a return to British rule or more recently, Communism, the electors could cast their vote for the other candidate.  The framers did not trust the average citizen to make the correct decision in every election and wanted a “Check” on poor choices, to ensure stability.  Two hundred twenty-three years later, it’s still effective so they must have understood something.  With the upcoming US Presidential Election weeks away, we will once again see our process at work.  This election should be quite interesting because the chance of either candidate losing the popular vote and winning the Electoral College is a real possibility.

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