When Americans go to vote in presidential elections, they actually vote on a group of officials who make electoral collages.
The word “collage” refers to a group of people who are involved in one type of work. These people are electors and their job is to choose the President and Vice-President.
Electoral collage meets every four years, a few weeks after election day so that this work can be done.
How does electoral college work?
The number of electors from each state is roughly in proportion to the population of that state.
The total number of electors is 538.
California has the highest number of 55 electors. While some states such as Wyoming, Alaska, and North Dakota have the minimum number of these electors.
Each elector represents an electoral vote and any candidate needs 270 or more votes to win the presidential seat.
Usually, the states give all their electoral college votes to the one whom the general voters have expressed in the state. For example, if the Republican candidate won in Texas with 50.1 percent of the vote, they would be voted to all 38 electoral colleges in the state. There are only two states (Mine and Nebraska) that divide their electoral college according to the votes polled by their voters to each candidate.
For this reason, presidential candidates target specific “swing states”. These are states where votes can go either way. For this reason, candidates do not try to get maximum votes across the country.
The states that these candidates win, take them closer to the 270 electoral college votes they need.
Could it be that even if you get more votes of the people, you cannot become the President?
Yes, it can happen.
This can happen with those candidates who are most popular among the voters across the country, but they do not win enough states to get 270 electoral votes.
The reality is that in two of the last five elections, such candidates have won fewer votes of common people than their competitors.
In 2016, Donald Trump received nearly 3 million fewer votes than Hillary Clinton, but he became president because the Electoral College gave him a majority.
George W Bush won 271 electoral votes in 2000, however, Democrat candidate Al Gore received 5 million more votes than the general public.
There have been only three more presidents who won despite the common people not getting many votes. All these happened in the 19th century. These were John Quincy Adams, Rutherford B. Hayes, and Benjamin Harrison.
Why was this system created?
When the US Constitution was being drafted in 1787, it was practically impossible to make a president who won the votes of the common people.
This was due to the size of the country and the difficulty of communication. Also, there was little enthusiasm in Washington DC to allow lawmakers to elect the president.
In such a situation, those who framed the constitution set up an electoral college. In this, every state chooses an elector.
Small states favored this system because it allows them to keep their voice in a more powerful way than the national popular vote in deciding the president.
The Electoral College was also a favorite of the southern states. There was a large number of slaves in the population at these places. Even though the first slaves did not vote, they were counted in the US census. However, they were counted as three-fifths of a man.
Since the number of electoral votes was determined according to the size of the state’s population, there was more interference in choosing the president of the southern states. This thing would not have happened if the President was elected directly through the votes of the common people.
Do the electors have to vote for the winning candidate?
In some states, electors can vote for anyone as per their choice. But, the reality is that the electors almost always vote for the candidate who has the most votes in their state. If an elector votes against the choice of the President of that state, they are called “faithless”.
If no candidate gets the majority?
The lower house of the US Parliament, the House of Representatives then votes and elects the President. This has happened only once.
In 1824, electoral votes were divided among four candidates. In this way, no one got a majority.
Due to the dominance of the American system of two parties, it is difficult to do so in today’s era.