What Is The Electoral College
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The Electoral College is a process, not a place. The Founding Fathers established it in the Constitution, in part, as a compromise between the election of the President by a vote in Congress and election of the President by a popular vote of qualified citizens.
What is the process?
The Electoral College process consists of the selection of the electors, the meeting of the electors where they vote for President and Vice President, and the counting of the electoral votes by Congress.
How many electors are there? How are they distributed among the States?
The Electoral College consists of 538 electors. A majority of 270 electoral votes is required to elect the President. Your State has the same number of electors as it does Members in its Congressional delegation: one for each Member in the House of Representatives plus two Senators. Read more about the allocation of electoral votes.
The District of Columbia is allocated 3 electors and treated like a State for purposes of the Electoral College under the 23rd Amendment of the Constitution. For this reason, in the following discussion, the word State also refers to the District of Columbia and Governor to the Mayor of the District of Columbia.
How are my electors chosen? What are their qualifications? How do they decide who to vote for?
What happens in the general election? Why should I vote?
…a Process, not a Place
Faq On Electoral Votes
Q: Where is the Electoral College?
A: The National Archives at Archives.gov states, âThe Electoral College, administered by the National Archives and Records Administration , is not a place. It is a process that began as part of the original design of the U.S. Constitution.â
Q: Why did the framers of the Constitution create the Electoral College?
A: The founding fathers created the Electoral College as a compromise between electing the president by popular vote and electing the president by Congressional vote.
Q: How are Electoral votes determined?
A: The number of electoral votes per state is equal to the number of its senators plus the number of its individuals in the House of Representatives.
Q: How are electors determined?
A: The National Archives and Records Administration states, âThe Governor of each State prepares seven original Certificates of Ascertainment listing the persons appointed as electors as soon as possible after the November election.â
Q: Who selects the electors?
A: In most states the political partyâs central committee chooses the electors based on public service and candidate affiliation.
Q: When do the electors vote?
A: The electors meet in each state. Votes are due by December 24 to the National Archives and Records Administration.
Q: Do electors have to vote a specific way?
Q: How many voters are there in the Electoral College?
A: There are 538 voters in the Electoral College.
Once A Candidate Reaches 270 Electoral Votes Is The Election Over
No. Heres the even crazier part of our Electoral College system: Even after every single voters ballot is counted, the presidential election is not officially over. That doesnt happen until the electors cast their ballots, which will happen this year on .
Thats because our constitution mandates that on the first Monday after the second Wednesday in December, the electors meet in their respective States to cast their votes for President and Vice President of the United States.
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Inaccurate Reflection Of The Population
Because each state has a minimum of three electoral votes, votes from those in the least populated states count more toward the electoral vote than votes from those in more populous states. For instance, in 1988, the seven least populated states combined to count for as many electoral votes as Florida, yet the total population of those states was less than that of Florida.
Another example of the failure to provide an accurate reflection of the population is when it comes to third party candidates. If a third party candidate does not carry a majority in any state, they could carry a significant minority of the popular vote throughout the country, but they may not get a single electoral vote in the election.
Is The Electoral College System Biased In Republicans Favor
The Electoral College delivered two of the five most recent elections to Republicans even though the Democrat won the popular vote .
But more broadly, the way this question is generally measured is by comparing the margin for the winning candidate in the popular vote to that candidates margin in the tipping point Electoral College state. Thats the state that would get the candidate 270 Electoral Votes if they lost every other state where their margin is smaller.
Now, political coalitions shift over time, and in 2004, 2008, and 2012 it was Democrats who had a slight edge in the tipping point state compared to the popular vote.
- In 2004, John Kerry lost the popular vote by 2.4 percentage points, but he lost the tipping point state, Ohio, by 2.1 percentage points .
- In 2008, Barack Obama won the popular vote by 7.2 percentage points, and he won the tipping point state, Colorado, by 8.9 percentage points .
- In 2012, Obama won the popular vote by 3.9 percentage points but won Colorado by 5.4 percentage points .
But shifts in the parties support bases since the rise of Donald Trump may have made this irrelevant. In 2016, Trump lost the popular vote by 2.1 percentage points, and won the tipping point state by a 0.77 percentage point margin. So he had nearly a 2.9 percentage point Electoral College edge significantly bigger than Kerry, Obama, or even Bush in 2000 managed.
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Joint Session Of Congress
|A joint session of Congress confirms the 2016 electoral college results, YouTube video. PBS NewsHour. January 6, 2017.|
The Twelfth Amendment mandates Congress assemble in joint session to count the electoral votes and declare the winners of the election. The session is ordinarily required to take place on January 6 in the calendar year immediately following the meetings of the presidential electors. Since the Twentieth Amendment, the newly elected joint Congress declares the winner of the election all elections before 1936 were determined by the outgoing House.
The Office of the Federal Register is charged with administering the Electoral College. The meeting is held at 1 p.m. in the chamber of the U.S. House of Representatives. The sitting vice president is expected to preside, but in several cases the president pro tempore of the Senate has chaired the proceedings. The vice president and the speaker of the House sit at the podium, with the vice president sitting to the right of the speaker of the House. Senate pages bring in two mahogany boxes containing each state’s certified vote and place them on tables in front of the senators and representatives. Each house appoints two tellers to count the vote . Relevant portions of the certificate of vote are read for each state, in alphabetical order.
Historical objections and rejections
Objections to the electoral vote count are rarely raised, although it has occurred a few times.
What Is The Electoral College And How Does It Work
The Electoral College is a group of intermediaries designated by the Constitution to select the president and vice president of the United States. Each of the 50 states is allocated presidential electors equal to the number of its representatives and senators. The ratification of the 23rd Amendment in 1961 allowed citizens in the District of Columbia to participate in presidential elections as well they have consistently had three electors.
In total, the Electoral College comprises 538 members. A presidential candidate must win a majority of their votes at least 270 in order to win the election.
The Constitution grants state legislatures the power to decide how to appoint their electors. Initially, a number of state legislatures directly selected their electors, but during the 19th century they transitioned to the popular vote, which is now used by all 50 states. In other words, each awards its electoral votes to the presidential candidate chosen by the states voters.
Forty-eight states and the District of Columbia use a winner-take-all system, awarding all of their electoral votes to the popular vote winner in the state. Maine and Nebraska award one electoral vote to the popular vote winner in each of their congressional districts and their remaining two electoral votes to the statewide winner. Under this system, those two states sometimes split their electoral votes among candidates.
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Why The Electoral College
Most voters would be unhappy to see their candidate win the most votes but lose the election. Why would the Founding Fathers create a constitutional process that would allow this to happen?
The framers of the Constitution wanted to make sure the people were given direct input in choosing their leaders and saw two ways to accomplish this:
The Founding Fathers feared the direct popular election option. There were no organized national political parties yet, and no structure from which to choose and limit the number of candidates.
Also, travel and communication were slow and difficult at that time. A very good candidate could be popular regionally but remain unknown to the rest of the country. A large number of regionally popular candidates would thus divide the vote and not indicate the wishes of the nation as a whole.
As a compromise, the Electoral College system was developed.
These changes have led to calls for reforms to the system, for example, so that more states have a proportional allocation of electoral votes to more accurately reflect the popular vote.
Wait The Electors Can Hijack The Outcome Of The Presidential Election What
For decades, its been assumed that the 538 electors will essentially rubber-stamp the outcome in their respective states, and they mostly have. But theres scarily little assurance that theyll actually do so.
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, about 30 of the 50 states have passed laws binding their electors to vote in accordance with the presidential popular vote in their state. But in most, the penalty for not doing so is only a fine. The Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of these penalties this year but other states still dont bind electors, and the justices didnt require electors to abide by the vote in their state.
This issue hasnt been a big deal in the past because, almost always, the parties do a good enough job of vetting their respective electoral slates to ensure that they will indeed loyally back their partys presidential nominee.
But there have been a few rogue, faithless, or just plain incompetent electors over the years and their votes have all been counted as cast.
Rogue electors have never been numerous enough to actually affect the outcome of a presidential race. But its unclear if they would be stopped, should they choose to do so.
Now, some defenders of the system have taken the comforting view that the power of electors to go rogue is a good thing, since they could conceivably save America from a popularly elected majoritarian candidate who could oppress the minority.
Why We Still Use The Electoral College
Senator Charles Schumer shakes hands with Senator Bob Bennett after the electoral votes from the 2008 presidential elections were counted and certified in the House Chamber in the U.S. Capitol January 8, 2009.
So why does the Electoral College still exist, despite its contentious origins and awkward fit with modern politics? The party in power typically benefits from the existence of the Electoral College, says Edwards, and the minority party has little chance of changing the system because a constitutional amendment requires a two-thirds supermajority in Congress plus ratification by three-fourths of the states.
Plus the old-school electoral system has its benefits. With the Electoral College, for example, theres no chance of a run-off election or a protracted national recount. Columnist George Will shudders to think of what would have happened in the 1960 election if there had been no Electoral College.
John F. Kennedys popular vote margin over Richard M. Nixon was just 118,574,writes Will. If all 68,838,219 popular votes had been poured into a single national bucket, there would have been powerful incentives to challenge the results in many of the nations 170,000 precincts.
How Are Electors Chosen
Presidential electors get together in each state every four years to cast their votes for president and vice president. Electors are chosen in processes defined by state law, creating a patchwork of selection processes. In some cases, state laws defer to political party bylaws to define how electors are chosen.
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Can We Change The Electoral College
The only way to change our presidential election process is through a constitutional amendment which is difficult to do. This is why some opponents of the Electoral College system have come up with a workaround the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact. When a state joins the compact, it agrees to cast its electoral votes for whichever candidate wins the national popular vote, thus undercutting the Electoral College. Fifteen states have joined the compact a 16th, Colorado, voted on whether to join the compact on the 2020 ballot, but the results werent in at publication time.
How Electors Are Chosen
Elector Melba McDow, along with other electors, takes the oath of office as the Electoral College meets at the Texas Capitol in Austin, 2008
Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution states that electors cant be a member of Congress, or hold federal office, but left it up to individual states to figure out everything else. According to the 14th Amendment, ratified after the Civil War, electors also cant be anyone who has engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the United States, or given aid or comfort to its enemies.
The Constitution gave each state a number of electors equal to the combined total of representatives and senators who represent that state in the U.S. Congress. State legislatures are responsible for choosing electors, but how they do this varies from state to state. Until the mid-1800s, it was common for many state legislatures to simply appoint electors, while other states let their citizens decide on electors.
Today, the most common method of choosing electors is by state party convention. Each political partys state convention nominates a slate of electors, and a vote is held at the convention. In a smaller number of states, electors are chosen by a vote of the state partys central committee.
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Are There Arguments For The Electoral College
Its tough to argue with a straight face that this bizarre system is inherently better than just a simple vote. After all, why doesnt any state elect its governor with an Electoral College of various counties? Why does pretty much every other country that elects a president use a simple popular vote, or a vote accompanied with a runoff?
Now, you can argue that the Electoral Colleges seeming distortions of the popular will arent as bad as they seem for instance, by pointing out that swing states tend to swing along with the nation rather than overriding its will, or that the popular vote winner almost always wins. But, of course, thats not guaranteed to always be the case, and the recent major exceptions were incredibly consequential ones.
Others try to fearmonger about the prospect of a contested nationwide recount which, sure, would be ugly, but if youll recall, the Florida recount was also extremely ugly. And since there are so many more votes cast nationally, its much less likely that the national vote would end up a near tie than that a tipping point states vote would end up as a near tie. A recent paper by Michael Geruso and Dean Spears looked at this question, and found that it was 40 times more likely that a small number of potentially disputed ballots would determine the outcome under the Electoral College system, compared to a national popular vote.
How Many Electoral Votes Does It Take To Win
The important number is 270. A total of 538 electoral votes are in play across all 50 states and Washington, D.C. The total number of electoral votes assigned to each state varies depending on population, but each state has at least three, and the District of Columbia has had three electors since 1961.
Evolution To The General Ticket
Article II, Section 1, Clause 2 of the Constitution states:
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.
According to Hamilton and Madison, they intended that this would take place district by district. The district plan was last carried out in Michigan in 1892. For example, in Massachusetts in 1820, the rule stated “the people shall vote by ballot, on which shall be designated who is voted for as an Elector for the district.” In other words, the name of a candidate for president was not on the ballot. Instead, citizens voted for their local elector.
Some state leaders began to adopt the strategy that the favorite partisan presidential candidate among the people in their state would have a much better chance if all of the electors selected by their state were sure to vote the same waya “general ticket” of electors pledged to a party candidate. Once one state took that strategy, the others felt compelled to follow suit in order to compete for the strongest influence on the election.
The district mode was mostly, if not exclusively in view when the Constitution was framed and adopted & was exchanged for the general ticket .