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Electoral College

Part of Campaigns and Elections Unit
by

Aaron Hendrikson

on 9 November 2017

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Transcript of Electoral College

What is it?
How does it work?
The Details
Big question: What happens if no candidate receives a majority (e.g. what if there is a tie)?
Who are the actual electors? Couldn't they just vote for whomever they want?
What do you think?
An indirect method for popularly electing a president and vice-president
Answer: When a voter casts a ballot for a presidential candidate, they are actually voting for a group of electors who then go on to formally elect the winner (more than a month after election day!)
12th Amendment (XII): lays out the specific details of how votes will be officially counted and what happens if no one has a majority.
How many electors (or electoral votes) does each state get? Can you create a simple formula? (e.g. Electoral votes = _+_)
So, if Washington D.C. gets 3 electors, how many electors are there in total (i.e. how many could you possibly win)? (Hint: there are 435 members in the House of Representatives.)
538
You need a majority of all the electoral votes, which means the magic number you need to become president is___?
Political parties select slates of potential electors.
Whichever party wins, gets to use their slate of electors.
They pledge to vote for the winner of their state's popular vote.
30 states have laws binding electors to follow the popular vote in their state. (Is this constitutional?)
The winner-take-all rule
The candidate that wins the state gets all the electoral votes.
2 exceptions: Maine and Nebraska base their electoral votes on Congressional districts. (Remember "ME and NE"
So for example, if Colorado had this system...
Question: If you are not directly voting for a candidate, then who are you voting for when you vote for president?
Pros and Cons
Pros:
Candidates have to address the needs of the states
Makes recounting the vote possible
Maintains federalism - gives small states a bit more power (this could also be a con)
Empowers 3rd parties
Cons:
Winner of the national popular vote can still lose the election (i.e. it's undemocratic)
Discourages voter turnout and participation
Hurts 3rd parties
Risk of faithless electors
Who can't be an elector?
Look in your constitution:
1. Article 2, section 1, cl. 2
2. 12th amendment
Who gets to decide who electors are and how they get chosen?
If more states did things like Maine and Nebraska, how could gerrymandering play a role?
Timeout: So why don't citizens in American territories like, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands get to vote for president?
Still, there is a risk of "faithless electors"
Full transcript