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What is the Electoral College and How Does It Work?

 

Electoral College USA map for 2020

What is the Electoral College? Every four years we have a Presidental election and the Electoral College comes into play. This is our uniquely American institution that elects the President of the United States every 4 years.

The Electoral College is a body of electors established by the United States Constitution, which forms every four years for the sole purpose of electing the president and vice president of the United States. The Electoral College consists of 538 electors, and an absolute majority of at least 270 electoral votes is required to win the election. According to Article II, Section 1, Clause 2 of the Constitution, each state legislature determines the manner by which its state’s electors are chosen. The number of each state’s electors is equal to the sum of the state’s membership in the Senate and House of Representatives; currently, there are 100 senators and 435 representatives. Additionally, the Twenty-third Amendment, ratified in 1961, provides that the District established pursuant to Article I, Section 8 as the seat of the federal government (see, District of Columbia) is entitled to the number it would have if it were a state, but in no case more than that of the least populous state. U.S. territories are not entitled to any electors.

Following the nationwide presidential election day, on the Tuesday after the first Monday of November, each state counts its popular votes according to that state’s laws to designate presidential electors. In forty-eight states and D.C., the winner of the plurality of the statewide vote receives all of that state’s electors; in Maine and Nebraska, two electors are assigned in this manner and the remaining electors are allocated based on the plurality of votes in each congressional district. States generally require electors to pledge to vote for that state’s winner; to avoid faithless electors, most states have adopted various laws to enforce the elector’s pledge.

Each state’s electors meet in their respective state capital on the first Monday after the second Wednesday of December to cast their votes. The results are counted by Congress, where they are tabulated in the first week of January before a joint meeting of the Senate and House of Representatives, presided over by the vice president, as president of the Senate. Should a majority of votes not be cast for a candidate, the House turns itself into a presidential election session, where one vote is assigned to each of the fifty states. Similarly, the Senate is responsible for electing the vice president, with each senator having one vote. The elected president and vice president are inaugurated on January 20.

For the Electoral College
The suitability of the Electoral College system is a matter of ongoing debate. Supporters of the Electoral College argue that it is fundamental to American federalism, which increases the political influence of small states by the “plus two” Senate count over the number of state Representatives. The geographic dimension of the Electoral College requires candidates to appeal to voters outside large cities. Parties must form national coalitions with moderating appeals, contributing to the stability of the two-party system. Presently, a decisive choice for president is made without the challenges and recounts in every state that would follow a nationwide popular vote.

Against the Electoral College
Critics of the Electoral College argue that the Electoral College is less democratic than a national direct popular vote and is subject to manipulation because of faithless electors. Opponents argue that the system is antithetical to a democracy that strives for a standard of “one person, one vote” because it can thwart a presidential choice by the voters with a national majority. There can be elections where one candidate wins the popular vote but another wins the electoral vote, as in the 2016 election. Individual citizens in less populated states with 5% of the Electoral College have proportionately more voting power than those in more populous states, and candidates can win by focusing their resources on just a few “swing states”. Credit: https://www.history.com/news/electoral-college-founding-fathers-constitutional-convention

Read more about the US Electoral College

• The United States Electoral College, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Electoral_College

• How to Become President of the USA, https://www.usa.gov/election

• Why Was the Electoral College Created? from History.com, https://www.history.com/news/electoral-college-founding-fathers-constitutional-convention

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