Why the Electoral College?
The United States voting system can be confusing and messy. Even many registered voters don’t entirely understand how it works or why it is the way it is. The use of the electoral college can lead to instances where the winner of the election is not the candidate with the most votes, a rare occurrence that has happened five separate times in this country’s history, one as recently as 2016. To understand the electoral college and why it exists, we can turn to the Founding Fathers and the birth of this nation.
The voting system of the United States was created by the framers of the Constitution in 1787. They didn’t want their new country to be ruled by a tyrannical monarch like King George but were afraid that the common people were too poor and uneducated to select a good leader. Therefore, the framers argued about whether the president should be decided by the popular vote of the people or by Congress. As a compromise, they decided upon the Electoral College. With the use of the Electoral College, representatives from each state cast their electoral votes for the president, deciding the outcome of the election. Each state’s number of representatives in the Electoral College is equal to its number of delegates in the House of Representatives -- varies based on the population of the state -- plus its number of senators -- two for every state. That is why California has fifty-five electoral votes while Rhode Island has only four. There are 538 electors currently in the electoral college, and in order to win a presidential election, a candidate must receive at least 270 votes.
A presidential election takes place every four years on the first Tuesday in November. The projected winner is usually announced on election night. The electoral college vote then takes place in mid-December and the President doesn’t take office until January 20. When someone casts their vote for president, their vote enters a statewide tally. Forty-eight states award all their electoral votes to the candidate who wins popular vote in their state, the exceptions being Maine and Nebraska who use a proportional system to award their votes. The Constitution does not require that electors have to vote for the winner of the popular vote in their state, but some states have laws in place that require electors to vote according to the statewide popular vote.
The electoral college has been the voting system of the United States for over two hundred years. Some argue that it has outlived its use. After all, it was never meant to be a true solution, merely a compromise for the time being. Today, cracks continue to show in its structure. For instance, voters don’t truly decide the president -- it is up to the group of people who make up the Electoral College -- which has been proven in the instances where the president lost the popular vote. In the modern age of the United States, American citizens feel they should be trusted to pick their own leader. It is unclear what the future will hold for the United States voting system. After all, the Electoral College is in the Constitution, so the only way to change it would be through a Constitutional Amendment. With another election still wrapping up, Americans continue to call for a change to the presidential election.