How Does the Electoral College Work?

Give an example of the public feeling cheated by the electorate college system
2000 Presidential Election
Al Gore won the majority of the popular vote but only won 266 electoral votes
Meanwhile, George W. Bush won 271 electoral votes, making him the winner of the presidency
Define the term ‘Electoral College’
‘A body of electors chosen by the voters in each state to elect the president and vice-president.’
Give a brief explanation of how the electoral college works
Citizens vote for electors who then vote for the president
How many electoral votes are there?
How many electoral votes does a candidate need to win the presidency?
Absoloute majority of 270 out of 538
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What is the method used for allocating electoral votes for states?
2 Senators + amount of representatives in the house = state’s electorate college votes
How many Electoral votes does Alaska have?
2 senators + 1 rep + 3 ECV
How many electoral votes does California have?
2 senators + 53 representatives = 55 electors
Why are there 538 electoral votes?
435 representatives + 100 senators + 3 votes for the District of Columbia
Which amendment gave Columbia 3 votes and why?
According to Article 1, section 8 of the constitution, Maryland and Virginia donated land to a new district, namely Washing D.C.
However this meant that citizens living in Washington D.C. did not have a vote
The 23rd amendment fixed this
How does the Electoral College work in practice?
Tuesday following the first Monday in November – Election Day – voters cast their votes for their preferred candidate
Monday after the second wednesday in December – Chosen electors meet in their state capitol to cast their votes for President or vice President
Joint session of Congress then meets on January 6th – newly elected congress declares the winner
What happens if there is a tie, or if no candidate wins an absolute majority?
The house of representatives elects the president, each state has one vote and 26/50 votes are needed
Senate elects vice president and each senator has one vote, 51/100 votes are needed
How does each state award its electors?
48 states use a winner-takes-all system
2 states use the congressional district method
Give an example of a state using a winner-takes-all system
2012 Presidential Election – California
Obama won 60.24% of the vote and won all 55 electors
Which two states use a congressional district method?
Maine and Nebraska
How does the congressional district method work in Nebraska?
Nebraska has 2 senators, 3 representatives and so 5 ECV’s
The state awards one ECV per winner of each 3 districts. The remaining two ECV’s go to the state-wide winner
Give an example of the congressional district method in practice
2008 Presidential Election – Nebraska
McCain won 2 votes from the 1st and 3rd districts as well as 2 votes as the state wide winner
However Obama was still allocated one elector after he won the 2nd district vote
Name 2 significant differences between past and present which would be considered when creating a vote allocating system
The existence (or non-existence) of political parties
Communication and transport used to be extremely slow
Why didn’t the founding fathers opt for a popular vote?
They feared that, without sufficient information, the public would inevitably vote for the candidate from their home state which would likely result in a large number of candidates, with no-one winning an absolute majority of support as a mandate to rule as President
The largest states, with the most voters, might also dominate the election
Why did the founding fathers opt for an Electoral College system instead of a popular vote?
Hoped that the electors chosen by each state would have access to more information. This would ensure that a suitable candidate was selected
Alexander Hamilton feared that the public might not make a particularly strong choice
Outline the Connecticut Compromise and explain its relevance to the Electoral College System
Created a bicameral legislature where the house of representatives pleased the larger states as each state was represented based on population size.
Whereas the Senate pleased smaller states as each state is represented equally
The Electoral College tried to strike the same balance by allocating larger states more votes but ensuring that small states all had at least 3 votes
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