The US Electoral College System


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By Marshal Obuzor

As Americans go to the polls they are not voting for who would become their next President but for representatives (electors) who form their electoral college and chose their President. The President of America is not chosen by the votes of majority of Americans but by 538 persons who are chosen by the people to form the college.

The College convenes after the general elections to elect a president on behalf of the people. Each state usually has about the same number of electoral college representatives as it has Federal Legislators. This makes highly populated states like California have up to 55 electors while some small states have as little as 3.

This makes it possible for the “unlikely situation” of a party winning more of the general votes but still losing the Presidency.

I described it as an “unlikely situation” because with the exception of two states (Maine & Nebraska) which divide their college votes in line with the percentage of their popular votes, all other states normally give their college votes to the party/candidate that wins the simple majority of the general votes in their state.

That means if Biden wins 50.1% votes in California, the 55 California electoral college votes would go to him same with if Trump gets a simple majority in Wyoming or Alaska he would get the 3 electoral college votes from there.

This system reduces the need to over extend the majority lead in any state as a simple majority is usually enough to secure the college votes from a state. It also makes it possible for a candidate to have the popular majority from wide margins in some states but still lose at the electoral college. This was the case with Donald Trump/ Hilary Clinton in 2016, George Bush/Al Gore in 2000 and three other Presidents in prior US history.

As a result of this the US election is not won or lost in core Democrats or Republican support States but in “Swing States” that could go to any of the contesting parties.

The US Electoral College system was adopted as a result of their limitations at the beginning of their democracy.
In the 1780’s when their constitution and electoral system was being designed their massive landmass, impossibility of co-ordination and the limitations in communication made it impossible for elections to be conducted via popular votes. The electoral college was designed to overcome these challenges and has been in use ever since then.

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