Sunday, December 11, 2016

A Crash Course in the Electoral College

The Electoral College Helps Keep the States "United"

Official Tally of Electoral Votes, Election of 1800 

Here we are just about halfway between election day and the inauguration, and once again many questions are being raised about why we choose Presidents through the Electoral College -- including the assertion that the countrywide popular vote is the only legitimate way to elect a President. 

What is the Electoral College and Why Was it Created? 

The Electoral College is not a school; it is the process set forth in the Constitution for electing Presidents. The Constitution prescribes the process in Article II, Section 1, as amended by the 12th Amendment. 

Here is how it works in a nutshell:
  • Each state appoints electors -- in the manner it chooses -- equal in total to the number of Senators and Representatives it has in Congress, but none of them (or any government officer) can be an elector; 
  • The appointed electors then meet in their own states to vote; 
  • The lists of each state's votes are transmitted to the President of the Senate (the current Vice-President) and others; and
  • The votes are counted before Congress in joint session, and the person with a majority of the electoral votes is elected President. If no one has a majority, the President is chosen by the House of Representatives. (More on that and the origin of the 12th Amendment below.)