The Electoral College was established in Article II, Section I, of the United States Constitution, and was later modified by the Twelfth and Twenty-third amendments, which clarified the process.
When U.S. citizens vote for president and vice president every election cycle, ballots show the names of the presidential and vice presidential candidates, although they are actually electing a slate of “electors” that represent them in each state. The electors from every state combine to form the Electoral College.
Each state is allocated a number of electors equal to the number of its U.S. Senators (always two) plus the number of its U.S. House representatives (which may change each decade according to the size of each state’s population as determined in the census). For example, California has 53 members of the House of Representatives and two senators. They therefore have 55 electors.
After the election, by statutes in 48 states and the District of Columbia, the party that wins the most votes in that state appoints all of the electors for that state. This is known as a “winner-take-all” or “unit rule” allocation of electors, which became the norm across the nation by the 1830’s. Currently, the only exceptions to the unit rule are in Maine and Nebraska that allocate their electors by congressional district, plus two at-large electors awarded to the candidate who wins the state’s’ popular votes.
On January 6th, following the presidential election year, the president of the U.S. Senate opens all of the sealed envelopes containing the electoral votes and reads them aloud. To be elected as president or vice president, a candidate must have an absolute majority (50%, plus one vote) of the electoral votes for that position.
The Electoral College is anti-majoritarian. This means that a candidate can win the presidency without getting a majority of the votes in the country. This happened in 2000 and 2016. Both George W. Bush and Donald Trump won by getting a majority of votes in the Electoral College but received far fewer votes than their Democratic opponents, Al Gore and Hillary Clinton.
A democracy is based on the will of the majority. What is a president does not receive a majority of votes in the presidential election? Is this fair?
The question that we will review this week focuses on the Electoral College. Should we abolish the Electoral College? This means that the winner of the presidential election will be the candidate who receives a majority of the vote—one more vote than his or her opponent.
Do you think we should abolish the Electoral College? Please review some of the material below before you answer this question.
This issue has been in the news are great deal, which is why there is so much recent analysis of the topic.
1. History of Electoral College, History of Electoral College
2. A Case for the Electoral College A Case for the Electoral College
3. Abolish the Electoral College Abolish the Electoral College
4. Battle Ground States Bias of Electoral College
5. Professor Lawrence Lessig on Electoral College Prof. Lessig on Electoral College
5. Panel Discusses Electoral College Reform Panel Discussion on EC Reform
6. Conservative Columnist George F. Will Supports the Electoral College: George F. Will
7. Liberal Columnist E.J. Dionne Opposes the Electoral College: E.J. Dionne
8. Overview of the Electoral College: Overview of Electoral College CQ Researcher