The Electoral College

Many people hear the term college and think that the electoral college is an actual place.  While the electoral college is often held at the same place, the term actually refers to a group of people.  As part of the constitution, the founding fathers created the electoral college as part of the election system.  Let’s learn more about the system.

From the second article of the constitution, the election system is formed.  Among this is the setup for the system to select the President and Vice President of the country.

With a country as big the United States, it wouldn’t be practical to gather the whole country for an election.  As such the country was created with two different election systems.  One election is system is the popular vote (vote by the people).  The other election system is an electoral college.

During the general election, people vote for which electors they want to represented by.  In the constitution, the only requirement for selecting these electors was that they couldn’t serve in any government position.  No matter if they were elected or hired into their position.  This still holds true today.

Each state was allowed to come up with their own plan on how to choose the electors.  It wasn’t until after the Civil War that all states started to use the popular vote to elect their representatives in the electoral college.

The number of electors that a state gets is based off of their population.  This is achieved by having a total number of electors equal to the number of representatives the state has in the house plus two.  The two additional electors represent the two senators that the state has.  As for Washington DC, it receives the number of electors it would have if it were a normal state.  The one limitation to that is that it may not have more than the lowest populous state.  This leaves the current electoral college with 538 electors.  This number will only change once every 10 years as the census determines how many representatives each state is allowed.

While every state currently uses the popular vote to determine the electors representing their state, most states do not show the electors on the ballot.  Only eight states print the names of their electors on the ballot, these would be:

  • Arizona
  • Idaho
  • Louisiana
  • North Dakota
  • Oklahoma
  • Rhode Island
  • South Dakota
  • Tennessee

When the constitution was made, it was stated that the electoral vote would determine the president.  The runner-up for electoral votes would be the vice president.  This is no longer true.  In modern politics, the electoral vote only determines the president.  The president now picks a candidate as vice president while they are running for election.  So the only person the electoral college elects is the president, the vice president comes with him.

In order for a candidate to win in the electoral college, they must score at least 270 votes.  Currently, 270 votes would get the candidate over the majority vote, meaning that there was no way for another candidate to win.  When the census changes the number of representatives and through that the number of electors, the number of electoral college votes needed will go up or down accordingly.

The idea of the electoral college is a fairly unique and modern one.  One that many people argue is broken.  It is possible to win the United States election while losing the popular vote.  This is because of the electoral college.  Many people argue that this is not a fair election process and that they end up with a president that does not truly represent the people.

No matter what your view on the electoral college is, it has its roots in American history.  In order for it to be changed the government would need to come up with a radicalization of the United States Constitution, something that is not that easy to do.  Until that is complete the process will continue in this way.

For this year, the electoral college was a highly unpredictable group.  Many people were wondering if electors would ditch their candidates in order to ensure that Trump did not win the presidency.  With a bit of a surprise to many people, the electoral college upheld Donald Trump as the winner and he has been officially confirmed by the electoral college.

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