Everything You Need to Know About The Electoral College

With election polls and pundits in the spotlight as Election Day approaches, it can be easy to forget that the Electoral College is actually the voting body that will decide who becomes the next President on the United States on November 8.

The Electoral College can often times seem convoluted, so here is a quick refresher on what the college is and the role your vote plays in the process of electing the next President and Vice President.

Where Did The Electors Come From and How Many are There?

Each state and Washington D.C. is granted a number of “electors” equal to the number of Congressmen the state has. Washington D.C.’s allotment is equal to the number of electors the state with the lowest population gets. Electors are nominated by the political parties, though the exact mechanics vary from state to state. There are currently 538 electors.

How Do We Get from Electors to a President?

A candidate needs 270 electoral votes to win. Those votes get distributed when citizens go to the ballot box—when you are voting, you are actually selecting the electors. Those electors are each pledged to a specific candidate. With the exception of Nebraska and Maine, whichever group of electors gets the majority vote determines where the entirety of the state’s votes go. If Colorado’s Democratic electors win the popular vote, all nine of Colorado’s electoral votes would go to the Democratic candidate. The electors officially cast their votes on the Monday following the second Wednesday of December (i.e., December 19).

What if an Elector Votes Against What They Pledged?

It has happened 157 times since 1796, and it is called “faithlessness.” About half the states in the U.S. have laws requiring electors to vote in line with their parties. Michigan and Minnesota will void the vote of a faithless elector, and while other states have ways to penalize a faithless voter, those punishments have not been enforced.

What if there is a Tie or No One Gets 270 Votes?

If a state goes to a third party candidate or some faithless voters prevent a candidate from hitting 270 votes, the responsibility of electing the next president falls to the House of Representatives. The house votes on the top three candidates for the presidency, with each state getting only one vote. The first to 26 votes wins. The same process would take place for the Vice President, who is elected by the Senate, with each senator getting a vote. Therefore, a winner would need 51 votes.

Where is this Election?

In this year’s election, many polls are projecting Hillary Clinton is already fairly close to her 270 electoral votes, though the votes of a few key states, the oft-mentioned “swing states,” could take the election either way.


One Comment

  1. otto says:

    A survey of Pennsylvania voters showed 78% overall support for a national popular vote for President.

    In Gallup polls since 1944, only about 20% of the public has supported the current system of awarding all of a state’s electoral votes to the presidential candidate who receives the most votes in each separate state (not mentioned in the U.S. Constitution, but later enacted by 48 states) (with about 70% opposed and about 10% undecided).

    Support for a national popular vote is strong among Republicans, Democrats, and Independent voters, as well as every demographic group in every state surveyed recently. In the 41 red, blue, and purple states surveyed, overall support has been in the 67-81% range – in rural states, in small states, in Southern and border states, in big states, and in other states polled.

    Most Americans don’t ultimately care whether their presidential candidate wins or loses in their state or district . . . they care whether he/she wins the White House. Voters want to know, that no matter where they live, even if they were on the losing side, their vote actually was equally counted and mattered to their candidate. Most Americans think it is wrong that the candidate with the most popular votes can lose. We don’t allow this in any other election in our representative republic.


  2. otto says:

    By 2020, the National Popular Vote bill could guarantee the presidency to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in the country, by changing state winner-take-all laws (not mentioned in the U.S. Constitution, but later enacted by 48 states), without changing anything in the Constitution, using the built-in method that the Constitution provides for states to make changes.

    Every vote, everywhere, for every candidate, would be politically relevant and equal in every presidential election.
    No more distorting and divisive red and blue state maps of pre-determined outcomes.
    No more handful of ‘battleground’ states (where the two major political parties happen to have similar levels of support among voters) where voters and policies are more important than those of the voters in 38+ predictable states that have just been ‘spectators’ and ignored after the conventions.

    The bill would take effect when enacted by states with a majority of the electoral votes—270 of 538.
    All of the presidential electors from the enacting states will be supporters of the presidential candidate receiving the most popular votes in all 50 states (and DC)—thereby guaranteeing that candidate with an Electoral College majority.

    The bill was approved this year by a unanimous bipartisan House committee vote in both Georgia (16 electoral votes) and Missouri (10).
    The bill has passed 34 state legislative chambers in 23 rural, small, medium, large, red, blue, and purple states with 261 electoral votes.
    The bill has been enacted by 11 small, medium, and large jurisdictions with 165 electoral votes – 61% of the 270 necessary to go into effect.


  3. Waynette says:

    The Electoral Collage. It is not fair to the American people that 538 people decide who the president is and you can bet the Clintons are paying them off. That needs to be gotten rid of. people should ELECT WHO THEY WANT not by 538 people. this junk has to stop. Don’t tell me you voted for it because most of the people that did didn’t know whey were voting far because of the way it is written or some one into it talked them for their own good.. WE DO NOT NEED THR ELECTORAL COLLEGE.

    1. otto says:

      Now 48 states have winner-take-all state laws for awarding electoral votes, 2 have district winner laws. Neither method is mentioned in the U.S. Constitution.

      The electors are and will be dedicated party activist supporters of the winning party’s candidate who meet briefly in mid-December to cast their totally predictable rubberstamped votes in accordance with their pre-announced pledges.

      There have been 22,991 electoral votes cast since presidential elections became competitive (in 1796), and only 17 have been cast in a deviant way, for someone other than the candidate nominated by the elector’s own political party (one clear faithless elector, 15 grand-standing votes, and one accidental vote). 1796 remains the only instance when the elector might have thought, at the time he voted, that his vote might affect the national outcome.

      States have enacted and can enact laws that guarantee the votes of their presidential electors

      The U.S. Supreme Court has upheld state laws guaranteeing faithful voting by presidential electors (because the states have plenary power over presidential electors).

  4. Linda says:

    The voting system is rigged–remember Bush/Gore!!!!!!!!

    The only reason Bush won was because his bro Jeb was governor of Florida!!!!!!!

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