Main Page | Recent changes | View source | Page history

Printable version | Disclaimers | Privacy policy

Not logged in
Log in | Help

Electoral College

From dKosopedia


The Electoral College is the constitutional mechanism used to elect the President and Vice president of the United States. Unlike other liberal democracies with presidential systems, the United States does not use direct popular elections to select its chief political executive. Instead, the popular vote is mediated and distorted by an electoral college. The winner of the popular vote in all states except Maine determines how each state's electoral college vote is cast. Each state is apportioned electoral college votes equivalent to its number of U.S. Senators and Representatives. While the District of Columbia is apportioned one elctoral college vote for its Delegate in the U.S. House of Representatives, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Guam receive no electroral college votes for havign Delegates in the U.S. House of Representatives. Indeed, U.S. citizens resident in Puerto Rico cannot even cast popular votes in U.S. presidential elections.


Other Electoral Colleges

France, which uses direct popular elections to select its President, uses an electoral college of all elected officials in the country to elect Senators in its parliament.

Distributive Justice and its Enemies

The Electoral College is opposed by some in the dKos community, and defended by others. While there have been claims that it was designed to protect the interests of southern slaveholders, it was actually modelled after Roman processes, designed by respected thinkers after a lot of study of classical government forms. The three fifths compromise, making slaves count for 3/5 of a citizen for apportionment purposes, was part of the Electoral College until it was removed by the fourteenth amendment to the Constitution in 1868, but fact that the Compromise existed in the formative process of the E.C. leads some to argue that the Electoral College is a racist structure.

There are two important parts to this constitutional arrangement, which are actually separate issues but often confused.

The first is vesting the power to elect the President in the hands of a select group of individuals. Constitutionally this is still the case. Presidential Electors can nominate and vote for any qualified US citizen to be President. Any attempt to force them to follow the wishes of other citizens expressed in ballots is unconstitutional. Suporters of the college argue the intention was to add a representative "republic" layer between the public and the election. Opponents would say that the words 'democracy' and 'republic' were interchangeable when the US constitution was written and that the practice is unnecessary now.

The second is the arrangement for allocating 'Electors' between the several states. This is the part familiar to today's political activists, who ignore the actual constitutional power of Electors and concentrate on the distribution of 'Electoral votes'. One claimed paradox in the college is that the size of the House is determinative. Thus George W Bush would have won any election in 2000 where the House had less than 491 members and Al Gore would have won any election where the House was larger than 656 members. However, this is not really a paradox since increasing the size of the house degrades the senatorial weight in the electoral votes. Increasing the size of the House without increasing the size of the Senate only makes the Electoral College more reflective of the nationwide popular vote. The current ratios of Representatives to Senators, and of voters per Representative, exist by Act of Congress, not the Constitution itself.

According to the traditional theory, the Electoral College seeks to protect state sovereignty in the same way that our legislative branch does, by combining regional and popular representation. Each state is awarded a number of Electoral Votes, determined by adding together the number of that state's Senators and Representatives. Since every state has two senators, the smallest number of Electoral Votes a state can be awarded is three. Washington D.C. also has three Electoral Votes.

This makes a total of 538 Electoral Votes. Each Electoral Vote is entrusted to an individual Presidential Elector who are elected or appointed from the several States and the District of Columbia according to State Laws. The Electors from each State meet in the relevant State Capitol at an appointed date and cast votes for the President and Vice-President. The College never meets or debates collectively across the Nation.

The Electoral College is a majority system, not a plurality system. This means that in order to win the Electoral College, a presidential candidate has to get 270 Electoral Votes. It is important to recognize that this is still true even when a competitive third party is running a candidate for the presidency. It is not enough for one candidate to receive more Electoral Votes than the others, because they could all be below 270 votes total. Instead, a candidate must receive more Electoral Votes than all other candidates combined.

Electoral Votes are awarded on a state level, on a winner-take-all basis (except for Maine and Nebraska, which award two electoral votes to the statewide winner and remaining electoral votes to the winner in each congressional district). Even if a state race is extremely close, the winner receives all of the state's Electoral Votes. In 2000, one little-known fact is that Gore won more of the closest states than Bush did - five of the top seven closest states, or six of the top seven if you count Florida. This is seen as an inequity by many, or just part of the strategy by others.


Several alternative electoral systems have been suggested:

Another quick and dirty hack of the electoral college, which was outlined a few years back, is summarized by the Amar brothers. It would provide for direct election of the President by passing laws in the 11 most populous states directing that those states' electors be allocated to the winner of the national popular vote. The winner of the popular vote would thus recieve 271 electoral votes and invariably win the Presidency. Additional laws in one or more additional states may be required following each census and reapportionment to ensure a majority of electoral votes go to the national popular vote winner. Because the Constitution provides that electors be delegated as the state legislature decides, no change to the Constitution is neccessary to effectively eliminate the electoral college except as a rubber stamp on the national popular vote.

In defense of the Electoral College system, physicist Alan Natapoff considered the effects of the electoral system, and of districted elections in general, on "vote power;" that is, the probability that a single vote will effect the outcome. Natapoff's contention is that a districted election preferable in all cases except the boundary case of a perfectly even race (50-50) with perfectly even voter preferences (50-50). In effect, districted election systems like the electoral college force candidates to campaign outside of the heaviest population centers, leading to broadened and theoretically moderated platforms. While Natapoff's specific claims may be disputed, his work indicates that there are more subtle effects of districted elections that should be more fully understood prior to enacting any reforms.

The electoral college results of recent Presidential elections is the starting point for analysis of different political and cultural Ideologies in the United States called the Red Blue Divide.

Support Turns on Advantage

Immediately prior to the 2000 election, strategists in the Bush/Cheney campaign worried they might win the popular vote, and lose the electoral college, and so opposed the electoral college system. [1]. After the 2000 election, the Bush campaign became fervent advocates of the electoral college as the source of their claimed "mandate." In the 2004 election the Bush campaign suddenly discovered that a narrow victory in the popular vote gives you a much stronger mandate than merely winning the electoral college.


Retrieved from "http://localhost../../../e/l/e/Electoral_College_1b27.html"

This page was last modified 19:30, 26 April 2011 by dKosopedia user Jbet777. Based on work by Dennis Wilkins and Andrew Oh-Willeke and dKosopedia user(s) Politicaladv1, WarrenCohen, Spec558, Corncam, Luckyboyzz, BartFraden, JhonnyX2003, Johnsonne, JhonnyX, Patrioticliberal, Robindranatt, Alexxanderny, Jopan, Kynilyator, Qolyan, Bounty, Pizdorvanec, Alan, Tunesmith, Eman70, Jfern, Cerebus, PeteyP, Latro, Centerfielder, Pyrrho, Angie in WA State, Saugatojas, Drew and Memesis. Content is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License.

[Main Page]
Daily Kos
DailyKos FAQ

View source
Discuss this page
Page history
What links here
Related changes

Special pages
Bug reports