What is the Electoral College?
The electoral college is a system set up by the framers of the
Constitution in Article
2, Section 1, and then altered by the
It assigns a certain number of electoral votes to each state (and Washington,
D.C.) for the purpose of determining presidential elections. The number of
assigned electorates equals the number of congressmen where one vote is given
for each House member and two votes for two Senators.
Why the Electoral College?
To understand the need for the Electoral College, you have to
understand the foundation of the United States in the first place. Notice
that the country is named the "United States", not the "United People".
Independent sovereign states (nations) once inhabited this land. They had
their own independent governments. They had militaries which defended
their borders. They had foreign ambassadors sent to other countries to
establish regular treaties, just as independent nations do today.
Going back to the American Revolution, at that time, there
were 13 colonies under British control. These 13 colonies did not want to
remain under the control of the King of England, so they basically "teamed up"
and declared their independence from England. A war ensued and their
defeat of England won their independence outright. But the colonial
governments knew that this was not permanent. They knew that England would
one day come to regain control over the rich, fertile colonies in the New World.
The colonies knew that the only way to thwart such an attack in the future was
to start building strong alliances with each other in the present. Over
the next 10+ years after the war, the colonies explored different ways of strong
unions that would not only guard against future invasions by Mexico, France, and
England, but would be strong enough to discourage those invasions in the first
place. Hence, the conclusion was that a permanent union needed to be
formed, a union of independent sovereign states with a centralized limited
government that could call on the states to defend each other in the future when
necessary. Legal documents would be needed to establish such a union,
something that required the leaders of all states to sign and be bound to.
The Constitution was born and so was the United States.
Shouldn't a presidential election be determined by a
popular vote in a democracy?
Yes. But we don't live in a democracy. We live in
a federation/republic. The best example of this is the U.S.
Congress. The Congress is divided into two houses. The House of
Representatives was created as a representation of the will of the people,
giving each equally populated block of citizens a single representation with
equal power. The Senate, on the other hand, which is more powerful, is not
a representation of the people, but a representation of the states (state
governments, if you will). In the Senate, each state has exactly two
representatives, giving EVERY state equal power. The Senate was created to
encourage those very small states to enter the Union. Otherwise, it would
not be logical for states with tiny populations (relative to the U.S.
population) to enter into a true representative Union as they would be
relinquishing their own sovereign power over themselves by doing so.
When thinking about government decisions, it sometimes helps
to relate them to your own personal situation. Think about moving into a
new apartment versus living alone. Let's assume that you have lived
alone for several years and have somewhat enjoyed the freedom with running your
apartment the way you see fit. Now let's assume that you have agreed to
move into a 5-bedroom apartment with four of your friends. Is the new
apartment going to be run exactly the way you see fit? Are you going to
get the shower for as long as you want anytime you wanted as you did when living
alone? Of course not. But there is the security factor. Most
of us feel much more secure when living with others than living alone.
This is very similar to a state's decision to enter the United States.
They have much more power as an independent nation that they would relinquish
when joining the Union, but the Union offers a certain level of security that
they could not have had otherwise. But that security could also be
emulated by simple alliances with the United States (i.e. Puerto Rico, Guam),
and if such security could be achieved without acceding the United States, it
would be very foolish to join. This is exactly why Puerto Rico and Guam
are not U.S. states. They CHOOSE not to be. This is very
confusing to those American citizens who've been brainwashed into believing that
the United States is a perfect union that no sensible nation could resist.
Puerto Ricans aren't stupid. They like their independence. Now they
have managed to do the genius thing of maintaining independence while creating
an alliance with the most powerful nation on Earth that would certainly defend
you if you have run into any problems. In Puerto Rico's case, they are
having their cake and eating it too.
So then the question arises as to why any state would ever
join the United States in the first place. The answer is in the Senate and
Electoral College. A state with 1/100 of the population of the United
States would actually have a voice greater than 1/100 of Congress. The two
equal-power Senators are the ONLY way to encourage newcomers into joining the
U.S. Similarly, the Electoral College which is framed exactly the same as
the U.S. Congress gives that necessary extra voice to the small states.
How do states determine which candidate(s) get their
Electoral College votes?
This is determined by the individual state. Remember the
whole purpose of the Electoral College in the first place was to let the states
cast their votes for the presidency. Therefore the states must be allowed
to cast the votes in any way they see fit to any candidate they wish. In
48 states and Washington, D.C. all electoral votes are cast for the candidate
who wins the popular vote. Maine and Nebraska allow their electoral votes
to be given to the candidate who wins each of their districts (Maine 2, Nebraska
3). Then the other two votes are given to the candidate who wins the
popular vote. This system seems to work remarkably well, and even the
anti-Electoral College liberals find very little to argue against this
It should be known that the most popular argument against the
Electoral College system in this country is against casting all state electoral
votes for the candidate who wins by the slightest of margins in the state.
Those that consider this a flaw in the system should not blame this on the
Electoral College but on the individual states. If you would like for this
to be changed in your state, you should contact your state government
representatives. Keep in mind that the smaller states tend to favor a
"winner-take-all" system because it maximizes the state's voice in the
electorate. When a state divides its votes among two or more candidates,
its voice is also divided and it loses power.
How many electoral votes does a presidential candidate have
to receive to win the presidency?
An absolute majority. Technically, it is 50% + 1.
Since there are currently 538 electoral votes (in 2000), a presidential candidate must
receive 270 to win the presidency. In rare cases, no candidate has
received an absolute majority. In this situation, the new Vice President
would be chosen by the Senate with the winner receiving the most votes.
The President, however, would be chosen by a unique election in the House of
Representatives. Each state would get exactly one vote toward a single
candidate. States that are divided equally along party lines may not
conclude a winner for the state. So they may abstain from the voting
entirely. But in this House election, the winner must receive an absolute
majority (26) of the House votes. If no candidate was able to receive the
required number of votes in the House, the Vice President (chosen by the Senate)
would officially become the President. The selection of the new Vice
President at this point is unclear and may be appointed by the new President.
The Presidential election has been sent to the House once
before. In 1824, four different candidates received electoral votes, and
none of them received an absolute majority. The vote then went to the
House and John Quincy Adams was elected as the president.
What would happen if we abolished the Electoral College?
This is basically common sense. What would happen when
you decrease the power of government representation for a group of states?
What if we abolished the U.S. Senate? This is exactly the same thing.
Abolishing the Electoral College or Senate would reduce the government
representation of the smallest states to make it illogical to remain in the
Union. This has happened before, in 1860. I shouldn't need to remind
you of the 620,000 deaths over the next five years after that. You
think that was bloody? Try abolishing the Electoral College or Senate in
the 21st Century. You'll see division in this country not seen since the
War for Southern Independence. Only this time, the two sides are not
geographically separated. Our decades of racial, religious, and political integration in this country will
come to haunt us in the future. It will be then when the nation's
integrity and peace are ultimately challenged. Can we divide into two
nations peacefully with few problems or will the liberals insist that we fight
another war? Is 10 million deaths worth a segment of the country retaining
domination over the rest? Only time will tell. I hope and pray that
future leaders will foresee the blood-shedding and prevent it before it's too
So who would want to abolish the Electoral College if it
tears the country apart?
The same people who want to do away with ALL states' rights.
They don't understand the purpose of having states in the first place. These
people would prefer living under an omnipotent centralized government.
They believe that their lives will be much more secure under such rule.
Those of us who oppose such government power recognize that a strong centralized
government that can deliver perfect security from invading and interior forces
then itself becomes the primary enemy as it controls its own power limits.
If you let anyone or anything determine its own limit of power, then it will
choose not to limit itself. A "secure" nation is one with a perfect
balance of limited government and national/domestic defense. Any shift in
either direction leaves the population at serious risk to domestic and/or
Books about the Electoral College