By Alex Campbell
While many of us at WHS are focusing on what college we will be attending next year, there is another college that will have just as profound of an impact on our lives—the Electoral College. But what is the Electoral College?
Fear not: Hi’s Eye is here to help you out.
The Electoral College is a group of chosen delegates that convene every four years to elect the President. The 538 electors are determined by the number of seats in the Senate (100) and House of Representatives (435), along with three electors allotted to the District of Columbia. In order to win the election, a candidate must receive a majority of 270 votes.
However, before the electoral vote, the citizens choose what party represents their state in the electoral vote. The popular vote is the process that chooses which party represents the state in the Electoral College. For most states, the process is a winner-take-all: no matter how small the margin, the winning candidate will receive all of the electors. A few states, however, determine what party gets the electors through a proportional system, specifically Maine and Nebraska. In these states, the number of electors per candidate is dependent on what percentage of the vote each party gets.
Once the electors are chosen, they convene in each of their respective states on the first Monday after the second Wednesday in December after the General Election to cast their votes.
It is possible to win the electoral vote without winning the popular vote. This has happened four times in American history: in 1824 between John Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson, in 1876 between Rutherford B. Hayes and Samuel J. Tilden, in 1888 between Benjamin Harrison and Grover Cleveland and most recently between George W. Bush and Al Gore in 2000. In each of these elections, the winner lost the popular but was able to win the electoral vote because of the winner-take-all system.
The electoral college plays an important part in the process of choosing this nation’s most important office and will be the focus of national attention in the coming months as the 2016 presidential race progresses.
To put it simply, imagine there are 5 states, each with a population of 100 and 1 elector per state. Candidate one wins a majority of the vote in the first three states, with 51 people in favor and 49 people against. Right now candidate one has 153 votes from the General Election and three electors. Then, candidate two wins the next two states, with 99 people in favor and 1 person against. This brings candidates two’s General Election votes to 345, far more than candidate one. However, candidate two only receives two out of the five electoral votes, and therefore loses the election. The actual process is much messier when applied on a much bigger scale.