8 Surprising Facts About the Electoral College

8 Surprising Facts About the Electoral College


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1. On five occasions, the winner of the popular vote did not capture the presidency.

In the multi-candidate race of 1824, Andrew Jackson received the most popular votes, but with no man winning a majority of electoral votes, the House of Representatives chose John Quincy Adams to be president. In 1876 Samuel Tilden earned a majority of popular votes, but Rutherford B. Hayes won by a single electoral vote. Twelve years later, Benjamin Harrison defeated incumbent Grover Cleveland handily in the Electoral College although garnering fewer popular votes. In 2000, George W. Bush captured more electoral votes while earning 500,000 fewer popular votes than Al Gore. In 2016, Donald Trump won the electoral vote despite receiving nearly three million fewer votes than his opponent, Hillary Clinton.

READ MORE: 5 Presidents Who Won the Election But Lost the Popular Vote

2. Two states do not have winner-take-all systems.

Nebraska and Maine are the only states that do not automatically award all of their electors to the winner of the state popular vote. Three of Nebraska’s five electoral votes are awarded to the winner of the popular vote in each of its three congressional districts, with the other two given to the statewide winner of the popular vote. Maine has a similar proportional distribution, with two votes awarded to the statewide winner and its other two votes given to the winners in each of its two congressional districts.

READ MORE: What Is the Electoral College and Why Was It Created?

3. On rare occasions, electors do not vote as pledged.

The Constitution and federal law do not require electors to abide by the results of the popular vote in their states, so occasionally “faithless electors” go rogue and cast ballots for candidates other than the one to whom they are pledged. A slight majority of states require electors to cast their votes as pledged, although no “faithless elector” has ever been prosecuted.

READ MORE: How Are Electoral College Electors Chosen?

4. More Constitutional amendments have been proposed to reform or eliminate the Electoral College than on any other subject.

There have been over 700 proposals introduced in Congress to reform or eliminate the Electoral College. In 1969, an amendment that passed overwhelmingly in the House (338 to 70) and had the endorsement of President Richard Nixon was filibustered and killed in the Senate. As an end-around to a Constitutional amendment, the National Popular Vote interstate compact is working to have states pledge to award their electors to the winner of the national popular vote. As of December 2012, the bill had been enacted by eight states and the District of Columbia, which together possess a total of 132 electoral votes. The measure would not be enacted until states possessing 270 votes approve it.

READ MORE: How the Electoral College Was Nearly Abolished in 1970

5. A similar electoral college was previously used by the Holy Roman Empire.

From the Middle Ages until 1792, leaders of the Holy Roman Empire were elected by a college of prince-electors from various German states.

6. Electors are prohibited from meeting in one central location.

To minimize the chances of corruption, bribery and backroom deals, electors are prohibited from gathering in one central location to cast their ballots. Thus, electors meet in individual state capitals to vote.

7. Members of Congress and federal employees are precluded from serving as electors.

The manner of choosing electors is left to the states, although the Constitution stipulates that “no Senator or Representative, or Person holding an Office of Trust or Profit under the United States, shall be appointed an Elector.”

8. The words 'Electoral College' do not appear in the Constitution.

Article II of the Constitution and the 12th Amendment solely refer to “electors.” The phrase “Electoral College” did not appear in federal law until 1845.


One of the reasons America has Electoral College is because James Madison was worried about "tyranny of the majority", which involves a scenario in which a majority places its own interests above those of a minority group.

In the USA, a candidate could win the electoral college while winning only about 22% of the nationwide popular vote.

Alexander Hamilton thought the electoral college would ensure that “the office of President will never fall to the lot of any man who is not in an eminent degree endowed with the requisite qualifications.”

James Monroe, the fifth President, received every Electoral College vote except one. The holdout: a New Hampshire delegate who wanted to preserve the legacy of George Washington, the first and only President elected unanimously by the Electoral College.

Gerald Ford is the only person to become the President without having been previously voted into either the presidential or vice presidential office by the Electoral College.

James K. Polk (often called the "least known consequential president") advocated for the abolishment of the Electoral college, instead believing the POTUS should be elected by popular vote.

The Every Vote Counts Amendment is a proposed Amendment that abolishes the electoral college for presidential elections

More Constitutional amendments have been proposed to reform or eliminate the Electoral College than on any other subject.

The Electoral college was formed out of compromise between "North" and "South" pre-civil war, along with the "3/5ths compromise" , and is directly tied to slavery

Those "maps" that skew geography to better represent other relevant data (e.g. electoral college votes per state) are called "cartograms".


Facts You Never Knew About ‘United States Electoral College’

As the 2020 United States election comes up on November 3, Brainnews has gathered interesting facts you need to know about the United States Electoral College which decides who becomes the next President and Vice President of United States.

In the United States, the Electoral College refers to the group of presidential electors required by the United States Constitution to form every four years for the sole purpose of electing the president and vice president of the United States. Article II, Section 1, Clause 2 of the Constitution provides that each state shall “appoint” electors selected in a manner its legislature determines, and it disqualifies any person holding a federal office, either elected or appointed, from being an elector. There are currently 538 electors, and an absolute majority of electoral votes, 270 or more, is required to win the election.

The appropriateness of the Electoral College system is a matter of ongoing debate. Supporters argue that it is a fundamental component of American federalism. They maintain the system elected the winner of the nationwide popular vote in over 90% of presidential elections promotes political stability preserves the Constitutional role of the states in presidential elections and fosters a broad-based, enduring, and generally moderate political party system.

Critics argue that the Electoral College is less democratic than a national direct popular vote and is subject to manipulation because of faithless electors that the system is antithetical to a democracy that strives for a standard of “one person, one vote” and there can be elections where one candidate wins the national popular vote but another wins the electoral vote, as in the 2000 and 2016 elections. 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”.

Number of electors

Article II, Section 1, Clause 2 of the Constitution, empowers each state legislature to determine the manner by which the state’s electors are chosen. The number of electors in each state is equal to the sum of the state’s membership in the Senate and House of Representatives.

Currently, there are 100 senators and 435 state representatives. In addition, 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 (namely, 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. In practice, that results in Washington D.C. being entitled to 3 electors. U.S. territories are not entitled to any electors. There are currently 538 electors.

Following the national presidential election day (on the first Tuesday after November 1), each state counts its popular votes according to its laws to select the electors.

In 48 states and Washington, 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 electors’ pledge.

The electors of each state 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.

Meeting of electors

The Congress may determine the Time of chusing [sic] the Electors, and the Day on which they shall give their Votes which Day shall be the same throughout the United States.

Since 1936, federal law has provided that the electors in all the states (and, since 1964, in the District of Columbia) meet “on the first Monday after the second Wednesday in December next following their appointment” to vote for president and vice president.

Under Article II, Section 1, Clause 2, all elected and appointed federal officials are prohibited from being electors. The Office of the Federal Register is charged with administering the Electoral College.

After the vote, each state then sends a certified record of their electoral votes to Congress. The votes of the electors are opened during a joint session of Congress, held in the first week of January, and read aloud by the incumbent vice president, acting in his capacity as President of the Senate. If any person receives an absolute majority of electoral votes, that person is declared the winner. If there is a tie, or if no candidate for either or both offices receives a majority, then choice falls to Congress in a procedure known as a contingent election.

Current proposals to abolish

Since January 3, 2019, joint resolutions have been made proposing constitutional amendments that would replace the Electoral College with the popular election of the president and vice president. Unlike the Bayh–Celler amendment, with its 40% threshold for election, these proposals do not require a candidate to achieve a certain percentage of votes to be elected.

National Popular Vote Interstate Compact

Several states plus the District of Columbia have joined the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact. Those jurisdictions joining the compact agree to eventually pledge their electors to the winner of the national popular vote. The compact will not go into effect until the number of states agreeing to the compact form a majority (at least 270) of all electors. The compact is based on the current rule in Article II, Section 1, Clause 2 of the Constitution, which gives each state legislature the plenary power to determine how it chooses its electors.

Some scholars have suggested that Article I, Section 10, Clause 3 of the Constitution requires congressional consent before the compact could be enforceable thus, any attempted implementation of the compact without congressional consent could face court challenges to its constitutionality. Others have suggested that the compact’s legality was strengthened by Chiafalo v. Washington, in which the Supreme Court upheld the power of states to enforce electors’ pledges.

As of 2020, 15 states and the District of Columbia have joined the compact collectively, these jurisdictions control 196 electoral votes, which is 73% of the 270 required for the compact to take effect.


7 surprising things you didn’t know about the Electoral College

In this Nov. 8, 2000 file photo, Willie Smith holds four copies of the Chicago Sun-Times, each with a different headline, in Chicago, reflecting a night of suspense, drama and changes in following the presidential race between Vice President Al Gore and Texas Gov. George W. Bush. What happens if America wakes up on Nov. 9 to a disputed presidential election in which the outcome turns on the results of a razor-thin margin in one or two states, one candidate seeks a recount and the other goes to court? (Photo: AP Photo/Charles Bennett, File)

The American electoral system is considered by some to be unusual. Nonetheless, it is a crucial part of every presidential election, and can even overpower the popular vote.

Although the electoral college is vital to US politics, many things about it are widely unknown.

First, some quick background on the electoral college:

  • It was created as a compromise between founding fathers who could not decide whether citizens or Congress should elect the president.
  • The Electoral College vote will officially be counted by Congress on January 6, 2017.
  • If no candidate reaches 270 electoral votes -- the number needed to win -- then the House of Representatives votes for president and the Senate votes for VP.

Now that you've got the basics, here are some intriguing facts about the Electoral College that you should know.

1. You don't vote for president -- you vote for the Electoral College

Your vote that you think you cast for the candidate you believe most fit to become commander-in-chief actually goes to elect members of the Electoral College, typically people you have never heard of. By voting Republican, for example, you are voting for a member of the Electoral College who is expected to vote in consistency with their party line.

2. You could (maybe) become a member of the Electoral College

Electors are nominated by their state party’s committee. This can sometimes be a reward based on years of loyalty to the party. Therefore, if you are politically active in your party, your chances of becoming an elector are increased. Electors can also campaign for a spot. Voting is held at the state’s party convention. However, an Electoral College member cannot be a member of Congress or an individual who has rebelled against the United States.

3. The winner of the popular vote does not always win the presidency

Presidential election winners have actually lost the popular vote in four elections. In 1824, John Quincy Adams became president despite losing by 44,804 popular votes to Andrew Jackson due to the Electoral College system. The same thing happened in 1876, when Rutherford B. Hayes lost the popular vote to Samuel J. Tilden but won the White House. Benjamin Harrison also lost the popular vote to Grover Cleveland in 1888, as did George W. Bush, who lost the popular vote to Al Gore in 2000.

4. Electors who vote for another candidate may be punished

Electors are pledged to represent their party's candidate, but they're not bound to by federal law. Some states can punish electors who go rogue with fines or jail time, but the votes have to be accepted by Congress either way. Over 150 so-called "faithless electors" have stepped out of line to date. And that may happen again this year in Washington State.

5. The Holy Roman Empire used a similar electoral institution

Princes from various states chose who would become the Holy Roman Emperor through a vote. The name “college” comes from the historic College of Cardinals, who determine the pope in the Catholic Church.

6. Electors cannot meet together

Electors always meet at their state capitols rather than in one location, such as Washington D.C. This is to combat and prevent possible corruption.

7. In 1872, electors voted for a dead man

Horace Greeley, a Democratic candidate in 1872, died on November 29, 1872 -- after Election Day, but prior to the Electoral College vote. Three electoral votes were still cast for Greeley, but Congress did not count them.

Chelsie Arnold is a member of the USA TODAY College contributor network.

This article comes from The USA TODAY College Contributor network. The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of USA TODAY. You understand that we have no obligation to monitor any discussion forums, blogs, photo- or video-sharing pages, or other areas of the Site through which users can supply information or material. However, we reserve the right at all times, in our sole discretion, to screen content submitted by users and to edit, move, delete, and/or refuse to accept any content that in our judgment violates these Terms of Service or is otherwise unacceptable or inappropriate, whether for legal or other reasons.

This story originally appeared on the USA TODAY College blog, a news source produced for college students by student journalists. The blog closed in September of 2017.


50 interesting facts about the Electoral College

The 2020 presidential election is fast approaching, and it is sure to be a major event of the 21st century and in the history of the United States. However, did you know that when you cast your vote on Election Day, you’re actually voting for the electors who will represent your state in the Electoral College?

While voters contribute to the nation’s popular vote, the Electoral College is where representatives from every state and the District of Columbia (but not American territories) cast their votes for president. To win, a presidential candidate must receive 270 electoral votes. In effect, a typical electoral vote represents over 600,000 American citizens!

Established at the Founding Fathers’ Constitutional Convention of 1787, the College was established with the aim of avoiding the overuse of partisan politics. It has survived three amendments, electors who went against their promised votes, and many attempts to abolish or change its makeup entirely.

For instance, did you know that it could have been abolished way back in the year 1968? While Republicans tend to be more in favor of the system than Democrats, many Americans also support utilizing the popular vote. Some states, as well as the District of Columbia, have even pledged to give their electoral votes to whoever wins the state’s popular election.

Although electors are typically composed of those already connected to their state’s politics (whether through a party or through donorship), it’s important to be informed about how this specific branch of our democracy functions to produce the next president.

Stacker compiled 50 interesting facts about the Electoral College using a variety of different, thoroughly factual news, research, and.

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The Electoral College system was created in 1787

It was established as part of the Constitutional Convention. Additionally, it was the work of the Founding Fathers, who were also obviously responsible for the Constitution.

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Many Southern politicians supported its creation

This support largely originated out of fear. At the time, Southern politicians were worried that a direct popular vote would lessen the South’s influence, since a great deal of its population was non-voting enslaved people.

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At least four alternatives were proposed

Attendees of the Constitutional Convention had some other ideas for how to ultimately choose the president and vice president. They included election by Congress, election by state legislatures, election by state governors, and direct election by voters.

The Electoral College was meant to discourage partisanship

In creating the system, the Founding Fathers aimed to ensure that partisan politics wouldn’t dominate our country’s electoral process. Instead, they hoped that electors would choose the best man running, regardless of party membership.

The Holy Roman Empire used a similar system

Princes from various states gathered to choose the next Holy Roman Emperor through a vote. The idea for the “college” actually comes from the historic College of Cardinals, who determine who becomes Catholic Church’s pope.

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Slavery is ultimately tied to the Electoral College

At the time, the process of allocating congresspeople (who are tied to the number of a state’s electors) was tied to the 3/5 Compromise, in which each enslaved person in a state counted as a fraction of a person when apportioning congressional seats. This gave Southern states with many enslaved people more power. But it did not give enslaved people the vote.

Alexander Hamilton supported the Electoral College

Hamilton argued that while it might not be perfect, it was “at least excellent.” In the Federalist Papers, he wrote that the point of the College is to preserve “the sense of the people,” while also making sure that the president is chosen by “men most capable of analyzing the qualities adapted to the station.”

Many proposals have called for its abolishment

Over 700 proposals to amend or abolish the system have been introduced since its inception. That means that more Constitutional amendment proposals have been introduced relating to the Electoral College than any other subject.

Presidents need the Electoral College majority vote

A presidential candidate can only win if they receive 270 electoral votes. If they receive any less, they will not have secured the majority vote.

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Voters don't vote directly for presidential candidates

Instead, on election day, American voters cast their ballots to determine a presidential candidate’s electors. These people have already been chosen by each party’s leaders.

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It has been increasingly scrutinized in recent decades

This is largely because of the controversial outcomes of the 2000 and 2016 presidential elections. In both, the winners of the presidency (George W. Bush and Donald Trump) won the electoral college vote, but lost the popular vote.

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California has the most electoral votes

The state has 55 electoral votes. These include one each for California’s two senators and 53 members of the House of Representatives.

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There have been 167 cases of "faithless electors"

A “faithless elector” is someone who votes for someone other than their political party’s candidate. For instance, in the 1796 election, Federalist elector Samuel Miles voted for Democratic-Republican candidate Thomas Jefferson.

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Faithless electors can be punished

Some states are allowed to punish faithless electors with fines or jail time. However, electors aren’t bound by federal law to vote for their party’s candidate by law, and their vote must be accepted either way.

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Electors can’t gather in one location

Instead, electors meet at their respective state capitals. They don’t meet in one spot as a preventative measure against corruption or conspiratorial gathering.

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Electors have voted for a dead man

In 1872, Democratic candidate Horace Greeley died after Election Day, but before the Electoral College voted. Three votes were cast for Greeley, but Congress did not count them.

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The Holy Roman Empire used a similar system

Holy Roman Empire leaders were elected by a college of electors from different states. This practice continued from the 12th century to the 18th century.

Electoral votes are allocated according to the Census

The number of electoral votes can change every 10 years, based on Census results. The current allocations are based on the 2010 Census, and are effective for the 2012, 2016, and 2020 presidential elections.

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Three is the lowest number of electoral votes

The seven least populous states—Alaska, Delaware, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont, and Wyoming—each have three electors. The District of Columbia is also allocated three electors.

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The electoral college votes on a set date

There is a brief time gap between the general election and the Electoral College vote. The electors meet on the first Monday after the second Wednesday in December following the general election.

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Ties mean that the House of Representatives intervenes

If nobody gets a majority or there’s a tie, then it’s up to the House of Representatives to decide the election. Each state’s lawmakers get one vote each.

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More Americans support the popular vote

In a June 2018 PRRI/Atlantic survey, 65% of Americans surveyed said that they support electing the president by popular vote. In contrast, 32% said that they preferred the Electoral College.

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The Electoral College could have been abolished in 1969

In that year, a proposal to replace the Electoral College with a popular vote system passed the House. However, it was ultimately filibustered in the Senate.

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The Electoral College has been changed three times

The Electoral College was first amended when the 12th Amendment was passed in 1803. Further changes occurred when the 20th Amendment was passed in 1932 and the 23rd Amendment was passed in 1960.

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Voters in non-state territories get no electoral votes

Voters in non-state territories like Puerto Rico aren’t allocated any electors. However, citizens of these territories can take part in presidential primaries.

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Most states have a winner-takes-all electoral vote system

This means that the winner of the popular vote receives all of the state’s electoral votes. When the election ends, the governor declares the winning candidate and which electors will represent the state.

The 12th Amendment was passed after a tie election

This law was introduced after the tie election of 1800. The Amendment ultimately made it so that electors vote for a president and vice president, instead of for two presidential candidates.

The 20th Amendment changed term limits

Before the 20th Amendment was passed, the president and vice president’s terms ended on March 4. However, this law made it so that their terms now end on January 20.

The 23rd Amendment gave D.C. electors

Through this amendment, the District of Columbia was granted electoral votes. Currently, the District has three electors.

The date of the vote count has changed

The date of the Electoral College count was changed in 1957, 1985, 1989, 1997, 2009, and 2013. In 2020, the date is December 14.

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There are exceptions to the “winner-take-all” system

Popular vote winners don't always become president

There have been five instances in which the winner of the popular vote has not become president. Instead, the electoral college winner came away victorious. These cases include the 1824 election, the 1876 election, the 1888 election, the 2000 election, and the 2016 election.

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Originally, Congress could have chosen the president

The original debate at the Constitutional Convention focused on whether or not Congress should choose the president, not whether the popular vote or Electoral College should determine the outcome. The convention ultimately voted that Congress should elect the president at the time.

The College wasn’t designed to protect states’ rights

It’s a common misconception that the Electoral College was designed with the protection of federalism and states’ rights in mind. However, while the College allows state legislatures to decide how electors are chosen, it wasn’t designed to protect the influence of state governments.

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There are 538 electors

Of these electors, 535 represent the total number of congressional members. The remaining three represent Washington D.C.

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Electoral College ties are unlikely, but not impossible

Because of the winner-takes-all system in place in most states, it’s unlikely that a presidential election tie will occur. However, this happened in 1800, when two candidates received exactly 73 electoral votes.

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One electoral vote represents about 607,000 people

The current United States population is around 331 million people. However, it depends on the state’s population—one electoral vote in Wyoming amounts to around 193,000 people, while one vote in California represents over 700,000 people.

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Some states penalize faithless electors

In Oklahoma, a faithless elector can face a misdemeanor charge. In New Mexico, electors who abandon their pledge can be charged with a felony.

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It’s not a college in the educational sense

Instead, the “college” in Electoral College refers to a collegium (group of colleagues). Overall, “college” in this context designates a group of people who are associated with a common pursuit.

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Choosing electors can be an “insider’s game”

Electors are often already heavily involved in state politics. According to University of Baltimore professor Kimberly Wehle, electors tend to be party leaders, state legislators, or donors.

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Some want to reduce its importance without amendments

The District of Columbia and 15 states, which control 196 electoral votes, signed onto an interstate compact. This means that they pledge to grant their votes to the winner of the national popular vote.

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Republicans benefit from the College

A big reason why Republicans overwhelmingly support the Electoral College is that the party benefits from many rural states’ electoral numbers. States like Tennessee, Louisiana, and Kentucky are solid Republican states.

The Electoral College plays a huge role in presidential elections, but how much do you know about it? Stacker compiled 50 facts about the process.


Constitution Daily

Today, the 538 members of the Electoral College meet across the country to pick the next President of the United States. Here&rsquos what you need to know about this American tradition.

The Electoral College was created as a compromise at the 1787 Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia. The Constitution&rsquos Article II, Section 1 spells out the Electoral College rules. A majority of electors is needed to elect a President members of Congress or people holding a United States office can&rsquot be electors electors can&rsquot pick two presidential candidates from their own state, and Congress determines when the electors meet within their states (or in the federal district). The total number of Electoral College members equals the number of people in Congress plus three additional electors from the District of Columbia.

George Washington won its first election on February 4, 1789 when he was a unanimous choice as President. Things have changed just a little bit since Washington&rsquos time. At today&rsquos meetings at 51 locations across the United States, there may be a few votes cast by &ldquofaithless electors&rdquo and more than discussion that usual about the race between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.

Here are the basic facts about the Electoral College, including its origins and how the voting is conducted.

It was one of the great compromises of the Constitutional Convention. The delegates in Philadelphia couldn&rsquot agree on a method to elect a chief executive, which was a new concept in 1787. Seminal Founding Fathers James Wilson, James Madison, John Dickinson, Roger Sherman and Gouverneur Morris worked out the details.

What were some of the other ideas for picking a President? At least four methods were proposed to elect the President and Vice President: election by Congress, election by state governors, election by state legislatures, and direct election by voters.

Alexander Hamilton defended the Electoral College. After the convention, Hamilton gave it an enthusiastic endorsement, with a few reservations. &ldquoThe mode of appointment of the Chief Magistrate of the United States is almost the only part of the system, of any consequence, which has escaped without severe censure,&rdquo he said in Federalist No. 68. &ldquoI venture somewhat further, and hesitate not to affirm that if the manner of it be not perfect, it is at least excellent.&rdquo Hamilton said much more about this in Federalist No. 68 if you are interested: http://avalon.law.yale.edu/18th_century/fed68.asp

The Electoral College rules needed a fix pretty quickly. The first system allowed electors to cast two votes for President. The two highest vote getters became President and Vice President. That system worked when Washington was elected twice. In 1796 and 1800, it quickly fell apart and it inflamed an already bad relationship between Hamilton and Aaron Burr. The 12 th Amendment was ratified in 1804 to allow separate votes for President and Vice President.

Who can be an elector? Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution says that current federal employees can&rsquot be electors, specifically, a &ldquoPerson holding an Office of Trust or Profit under the United States, shall be appointed an Elector.&rdquo

Why am I not voting for the President directly on Election Day? On Election Day, people vote for a slate of electors that represents a Presidential and Vice Presidential candidate. In many cases, the names of the electors don&rsquot appear on the ballot and they are announced shortly after Election Day. Hamilton expressed the desire of many Founders to confine the direct election process to a small group since &ldquoa small number of persons, selected by their fellow-citizens from the general mass, will be most likely to possess the information and discernment requisite to such complicated investigations.&rdquo

How does the Electoral College work? Aside from the basic constitutional requirements, states control the elector selection and voting process. Each state must submit two documents to the Office of the Federal Register and Congress by the end of December. One is a Certificate of Ascertainment (listing the popular election result and the names of electors) and a Certificate of Vote (which lists the results of the Electoral College voting).

Where do the electors meet? The meetings are held at the state capitols and in the District of Columbia. They start around 9 a.m. and end around 3 p.m. in various states. The electors cast their votes and sign a form confirming they voted. That all goes into the Certificate of Vote. Once those documents go to the federal government, the Office of the Federal Register confirms the votes and then they are read out in Congress in early January. There is a process for House and Senate members to object to votes, but that is rarely used and hasn&rsquot affected an election.

What about Faithless Electors? A Faithless Elector is an elector who ignores their pledge to vote for a certain candidate. They are rare in Electoral College history. There have been more than 150 faithless electors since 1789 for various reasons. In some cases, candidates died between Election Day and the Electoral College voting date, forcing electors to pick another candidate or not vote. In other cases, electors switched votes for various reasons.

Have Faithless Electors ever changed an Electoral College election? The answer is Yes, but it wasn&rsquot in 1800, 1824 or 1876. In 1836, while Martin Van Buren won the presidential election outright, nearly two dozen faithless electors refused to vote for Van Buren&rsquos vice presidential running mate, Richard Mentor Johnson. On February 9, 1837, Congress opened the vote certificates and confirmed that 23 electors in Virginia voted for another candidate, William Smith of Alabama. Johnson defeated the second-place finisher, Francis Granger, in the Senate run-off election.


The Troubling Reason the Electoral College Exists

A s Americans await the quadrennial running of the presidential obstacle course now known as the Electoral College, it&rsquos worth remembering why we have this odd political contraption in the first place. After all, state governors in all 50 states are elected by popular vote why not do the same for the governor of all states, a.k.a. the president? The quirks of the Electoral College system were exposed in 2016 when Donald Trump secured the presidency with an Electoral College majority, even as Hillary Clinton took a narrow lead in the popular vote.

Some claim that the founding fathers chose the Electoral College over direct election in order to balance the interests of high-population and low-population states. But the deepest political divisions in America have always run not between big and small states, but between the north and the south, and between the coasts and the interior.

One Founding-era argument for the Electoral College stemmed from the fact that ordinary Americans across a vast continent would lack sufficient information to choose directly and intelligently among leading presidential candidates.

This objection rang true in the 1780s, when life was far more local. But the early emergence of national presidential parties rendered the objection obsolete by linking presidential candidates to slates of local candidates and national platforms, which explained to voters who stood for what.

Although the Philadelphia framers did not anticipate the rise of a system of national presidential parties, the 12th Amendment&mdashproposed in 1803 and ratified a year later&mdash was framed with such a party system in mind, in the aftermath of the election of 1800-01. In that election, two rudimentary presidential parties&mdashFederalists led by John Adams and Republicans led by Thomas Jefferson&mdashtook shape and squared off. Jefferson ultimately prevailed, but only after an extended crisis triggered by several glitches in the Framers&rsquo electoral machinery. In particular, Republican electors had no formal way to designate that they wanted Jefferson for president and Aaron Burr for vice president rather than vice versa. Some politicians then tried to exploit the resulting confusion.

Enter the 12th Amendment, which allowed each party to designate one candidate for president and a separate candidate for vice president. The amendment&rsquos modifications of the electoral process transformed the Framers&rsquo framework, enabling future presidential elections to be openly populist and partisan affairs featuring two competing tickets. It is the 12th Amendment&rsquos Electoral College system, not the Philadelphia Framers&rsquo, that remains in place today. If the general citizenry&rsquos lack of knowledge had been the real reason for the Electoral College, this problem was largely solved by 1800. So why wasn&rsquot the entire Electoral College contraption scrapped at that point?

Standard civics-class accounts of the Electoral College rarely mention the real demon dooming direct national election in 1787 and 1803: slavery.

At the Philadelphia convention, the visionary Pennsylvanian James Wilson proposed direct national election of the president. But the savvy Virginian James Madison responded that such a system would prove unacceptable to the South: &ldquoThe right of suffrage was much more diffusive [i.e., extensive] in the Northern than the Southern States and the latter could have no influence in the election on the score of Negroes.&rdquo In other words, in a direct election system, the North would outnumber the South, whose many slaves (more than half a million in all) of course could not vote. But the Electoral College&mdasha prototype of which Madison proposed in this same speech&mdashinstead let each southern state count its slaves, albeit with a two-fifths discount, in computing its share of the overall count.

Virginia emerged as the big winner&mdashthe California of the Founding era&mdashwith 12 out of a total of 91 electoral votes allocated by the Philadelphia Constitution, more than a quarter of the 46 needed to win an election in the first round. After the 1800 census, Wilson&rsquos free state of Pennsylvania had 10% more free persons than Virginia, but got 20% fewer electoral votes. Perversely, the more slaves Virginia (or any other slave state) bought or bred, the more electoral votes it would receive. Were a slave state to free any blacks who then moved North, the state could actually lose electoral votes.

If the system&rsquos pro-slavery tilt was not overwhelmingly obvious when the Constitution was ratified, it quickly became so. For 32 of the Constitution&rsquos first 36 years, a white slaveholding Virginian occupied the presidency.

Southerner Thomas Jefferson, for example, won the election of 1800-01 against Northerner John Adams in a race where the slavery-skew of the electoral college was the decisive margin of victory: without the extra electoral college votes generated by slavery, the mostly southern states that supported Jefferson would not have sufficed to give him a majority. As pointed observers remarked at the time, Thomas Jefferson metaphorically rode into the executive mansion on the backs of slaves.

The 1796 contest between Adams and Jefferson had featured an even sharper division between northern states and southern states. Thus, at the time the Twelfth Amendment tinkered with the Electoral College system rather than tossing it, the system&rsquos pro-slavery bias was hardly a secret. Indeed, in the floor debate over the amendment in late 1803, Massachusetts Congressman Samuel Thatcher complained that &ldquoThe representation of slaves adds thirteen members to this House in the present Congress, and eighteen Electors of President and Vice President at the next election.&rdquo But Thatcher&rsquos complaint went unredressed. Once again, the North caved to the South by refusing to insist on direct national election.

In light of this more complete (if less flattering) account of the electoral college in the late 18th and early 19th century, Americans should ask themselves whether we want to maintain this odd&mdashdare I say peculiar?&mdashinstitution in the 21st century.


Will the system ever change?

For years there have been debates about abolishing the Electoral College entirely, with the 2016 election bringing the debate back to the surface. It was even a talking point among 2020 Democratic presidential candidates.

The idea has public support, but faces a partisan divide, since Republicans currently benefit from the electoral clout of less populous, rural states.

Gallup reports 61 percent of Americans support abolishing the Electoral College in favor of the popular vote. However, that support diverges widely based on political parties, with support from 89 percent of Democrats and only 23 percent of Republicans.

One route would be a constitutional amendment, which would require two-thirds approval from both the House and Senate and ratification by the states, or a constitutional convention called by two-thirds of the state legislatures.

Some hope to reduce the Electoral College’s importance without an amendment. Fifteen states and the District of Columbia, which together control 196 electoral votes, have signed on to an interstate compact in which they pledge to grant their votes to the winner of the national popular vote. (Voters in one of those states, Colorado, on Nov. 3 backed membership in the compact after opponents of the measure collected enough signatures to put the law on the ballot as a referendum.) The local laws would take effect only once the compact has enough states to total 270 electoral votes.

Lastly, an election-related case could find its way to the Supreme Court, which would lend greater importance to the judicial makeup of the court, Professor Wehle said.

“It only takes five people with life tenure to actually amend this Constitution through a judicial opinion,” she said.


Fact 6: This Election Would Lead to Changes for 1804

The first couple of elections in 1789 and 1792 had a flaw within them, however, the flaw was hidden due to George Washington being so popular and John Adams have a good relationship with Thomas Jefferson prior to the election of 1796.

The flaw was that the President could not pick their own Vice President. This was a problem because the Vice President was not whom the people voted for and also held counter beliefs to the President.

This would hurt the agenda of the sitting President and if the President were to die then he would be replaced by someone who he did not select.

It also showed serious flaws when Aaron Burr was able to draw Federalist support since many Federalists hated Jefferson and wanted to hurt him by voting in Aaron Burr.

This election escaped disaster, but the country understood that political parties were a reality and needed to be accepted.

This led to the ratification of the 12th Amendment.

In 1804, the Federalists and Democratic-Republicans both created their own ticket which named their Presidential nominee and Vice President if they were to be nominated.


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