Home > A3, Learning > Wrapping your Brain Around the Electoral College

Wrapping your Brain Around the Electoral College

This February I feel my true beliefs were greatly challenged when my government class was introduced to the Electoral College. I was greatly baffled by the Electoral College and the role it takes when electing the president, so much so that I had to ask many questions and ponder whether I believed it was right for the United States or not before I could formulate any opinions in my head. The Electoral College is such a complex and mystifying topic that really takes some time to fully grasp.  Believe me I have spent many moments contemplating the fairness and equality of the Electoral College and whether it follows the morals our nation was built on; I have finally come to a conclusion.

Before I discuss my outlook on the Electoral College and how it affects the nation’s voting process I feel I need to define the Electoral College and analyze what it truly does. Growing up I naively always believed people simply voted for the presidential candidates, people counted the votes, and the candidate with the most overall votes won the election and became the president. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Now you might be thinking, “wait that’s not how the United States voting process works?” don’t fret I was in your same shoes earlier this year.  The popular vote seems like the most efficient and fair way to elect the president but unfortunately it is much more complex than that.

The fore fathers of America established the Electoral College and wrote it into the constitution in 1845 after compromising with Americans.  In order to form the Electoral College the men had to make a compromise because some people wanted the president to be elected by popular vote and some wanted congress to elect the president.  The founding men where so against popular vote for two reasons. The first was because of their lack of trust in citizens to make an educated vote. They feared popular citizens with in the states that were by no means credible candidates could wow certain voters, ultimately putting an unqualified president in office.  The second reason was because they wanted to give the state a vote when electing the president. This is because American politics vary in different cultures of America.  (1)

            The Electoral College is a group of electors chosen from each state that ultimately determine the president. Regular citizens from each state vote for a number of electors committed to a certain presidential candidate. In other words democrats vote for a group of democratic electors and republicans vote for a group of republican electors that represent a certain candidate.  The electors chosen by the party of the candidate who wins the most popular vote become the electors in that state.  Next votes are counted state by state. The candidate who wins the popular vote in a state wins the overall electoral votes for that state.  Notice I said electoral “votes.” Each state is worth a different amount of electoral votes based off the population of that state. (1) Lastly the candidate who wins the most electoral votes wins the election.  Candidate must win a majority of 270 votes to win the election and become president.  (2)

After obtaining this basic knowledge regarding the Electoral College I was finally able to wrap my brain around the whole thing and devise a conclusion. The Electoral College is such a crucial process when electing the president; I say this because it truly regulates the voting to keep it fair. If the United States didn’t have the Electoral College any unqualified schmuck could run for president and possibly win the election.  Long live the Electoral College!


1)  Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution outlines the procedure for selecting Presidents.http://www.thisnation.com/question/051.html

2) “Electoral College.” U*X*L Encyclopedia of U.S. History. Sonia Benson, Daniel E. Brannen, Jr., and Rebecca Valentine. Ed. Lawrence W. Baker and Sarah Hermsen. Vol. 3. Detroit: UXL, 2009. 490-491. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 24 Apr. 2012.

  1. May 5, 2012 at 3:19 pm

    I enjoy your writing style, Jack – you write well, and your writing is very engaging!

    You’ve written an effective summary of the Electoral College with, perhaps, one exception. You write that: “The fore fathers (sic) of America established the Electoral College and wrote it into the constitution in 1845 after compromising with Americans.” I’m curious: I’m not sure what you mean by this – the Electoral College was developed at the Constitution Convention in 1787, right?

    I’m curious about another section of your reflection, too: you write that the Electoral College “truly regulates the voting to keep it fair. If the United States didn’t have the Electoral College any unqualified schmuck could run for president and possibly win the election.” I’d love for you to clarify: what do you mean here when you write “keep it fair?” And regarding an ‘unqualified schmuck’ – most observers suggest that the Electoral College system sort of guarantees that one of the two major party candidates will always win: remember, it’s winner-takes-all in each state… which means that a 3rd party ‘schmuck’ must beat BOTH major party candidates in a given state to win any electoral votes at all. Consider the case of Ross Perot in 1992: Perot won almost 19% of the national popular vote (nearly 20 million votes!) but ZERO electoral college votes.

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