Chapter 13 – section 5 – the election the Electoral College Today

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The Electoral College Today
Voters do not vote directly for the President. Instead, they vote for electors in the electoral college.

  • All States, except two (Maine and Nebraska), select electors based on the winner of the popular vote in that State.

  • Electors then meet in the State capitals on the Monday after the second Wednesday in December and cast their votes for President and Vice President.

  • On January 6, the electoral votes cast are counted by the president of the Senate, and the President and Vice President are formally elected.

  • If no candidate wins a majority of electoral votes (270), the election is thrown into the House of Representatives.

Flaws in the Electoral College
Three major defects in the electoral college:
(1) It is possible to win the popular vote in the presidential election, but lose

the electoral college vote. This has happened four times in U.S. history

(1824, 1876, 1888, and 2000).
(2) Nothing in the Constitution, nor in any federal statute, requires the

electors to vote for the candidate favored by the popular vote in their

(3) If no candidate gains a majority in the electoral college, the election is thrown

into the House, a situation that has happened twice (1800 and 1824). In this

process, each State is given one vote, meaning that States with smaller

populations wield the same power as those with larger populations.

Proposed Reforms

  • In the district plan, electors would be chosen the same way members of Congress are selected: each congressional district would select one elector (just as they select representatives), and two electors would be selected based on the overall popular vote in a State (just as senators are selected).

  • The proportional plan suggests that each candidate would receive the same share of a State’s electoral vote as he or she received in the State’s popular vote.

  • A commonly heard reform suggests that the electoral college be done away with altogether in favor of direct popular election. At the polls, voters would vote directly for the President and Vice President instead of electors.

  • The national bonus plan would automatically offer the winner of the popular vote 102 electoral votes in addition to the other electoral votes he or she might gain.

Electoral College Supporters
There are two major strengths of the electoral college that its supporters espouse:

  • It is a known process. Each of the proposed, but untried, reforms may very well have defects that could not be known until they appeared in practice.

  • In most election years, the electoral college defines the winner of the presidential election quickly and certainly.

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