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Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Fun Facts about the Electoral College

Currently consists of 538 electors (equal to the number of Senators and Representatives, each state's number is allocated the same as its Congressional delegation). DC gets 3, thanks to the 23rd Amendment. See the current allocation by clicking on this link

It takes a simple majority of electors to win the Presidency - so, 270 wins.

In most of the states (excepting Maine and Nebraska), it is a winner takes all situation, meaning the candidate who wins the popular vote in that state gets all the electors. This is why it is possible to win the popular vote and lose the Electoral College vote - ask Samuel J. Tilden. Well you can't because he is dead, but click on the link.

Tilden (above) outpolled Hayes (below), but Hayes became our esteemed 19th President, doing very little while in office.

 This is also why larger states that are very close in the polls are so important (for instance, the winner of the highly contested, and very close, Ohio vote will pick up 18 Electors, or about 6.7% of the total electors needed to win - even if he only wins the state by one vote)

Why the Electoral College?

The Electoral College was created for two main reasons:  First to ensure that knowledgeable men would wisely choose the President, and second to ensure that the smaller states would not have more proportionate power than the states with large populations  (a minimum of three Electors gives a disproportionate number of Elector votes to, for example, Wyoming over Texas).

Arguments Against the Electoral College

Those who object to the Electoral College system and favor a direct popular election of the president generally do so on four grounds:

  • the possibility of electing a minority president - a voting minority, not a racial minority! (my edit)
  • the risk of so-called "faithless" Electors,
  • the possible role of the Electoral College in depressing voter turnout, and
  • its failure to accurately reflect the national popular will.
Arguments for the Electoral College

Proponents of the Electoral College system normally defend it on the philosophical grounds that it:

  • contributes to the cohesiveness of the country by requiring a distribution of popular support to be elected president
  • enhances the status of minority interests,
  • contributes to the political stability of the nation by encouraging a two-party system, and
  • maintains a federal system of government and representation

Thanks for reading.  Now go vote, if you haven't already.

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