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The Working of the Electoral College

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Electoral College

Cindy Amster

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Electoral College


The institution of the Electoral College has always been a controversial issue in American politics. It was established by the makers of the American constitution to offer a mechanism for deciding elections by offering a compromise. The view of the time was that it was reckless to leave the election of the president to mere popular vote, while to some it was objectionable to allow congress to elect a president. The Electoral College was then set up to allow voters cast votes for electors pledged to their preferred candidates (Bonsor, 2000).

The Working of the Electoral College

Every state is assigned a number of electors according to its number of senators and congressmen which are usually as a measure of population. At present there are 538 electors representing the 535 congressmen and 3 for Washington DC. The electors usually meet in the capitals of their state and cast votes for vice president and president. The votes are then sent in sealed boxes to the Senate president who reads them in front of both houses. The candidates with the most number of votes are then sworn in. In most instances electors cast votes for the candidate who has received the popular vote in the state though the electors are not bound by this.

The electors are voted on by voters of the state during voting day. It is the electors who are voted in who get to do the actual voting on who becomes president and vice president. A vote for a particular candidate is a vote for a particular elector who represents that party. In the winner take it all system used by 48 states the candidate with the popular vote takes all the votes of electors in that state. Ion the district system the popular candidate gets two electoral votes for the state while the remainder is divided according to the number of votes received by each candidate in the particular districts (Bonsor, 2000).

The Popular Vote Controversy

The Electoral College system thus presents an issue in which a candidate may get the majority of the votes from the general population yet fail to be elected president. This is because the electors are not legally bound by their pledges and also as a result of the winner take it all system which may see a candidate losing in states which have smaller numbers of electoral college voters yet wins by a smaller margin in the states with many more electors for instance New York and California and hence win the election.

Suitability of the Electoral College

According to Loomis and Schumaker (2002), the Electoral College system is not the best system for an electoral system due to several shortcomings. The Electoral College has the latency to cause instability



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