The Electoral College in the US

Topic: Elections
Words: 1106 Pages: 4


The Electoral College is a body of people elected by the US citizens, who cast their votes for the president and vice president. There are 538 electors in the Electoral College today; a popular vote elects the members, and the election process takes place during the presidential election. Voters vote for candidates who their political parties appoint. Every state has at least three electors, and each state has the same number of electors as it has representatives in Congress and Senators. California has the biggest number of electors (55), while seven states have only three electors. The number of electors of every state should reflect its political power in the presidential election process, based on the population of every state, determined by the census that takes place every ten years. Rather than a regular political body, the Electoral College is a system of indirect elections. Established by the US Constitution in 1787, this method is often criticized for its racist origins and the compromised representation of the political will of Americans.

The History of the Electoral College

The founding fathers established the Electoral College after thirteen states won the American Revolutionary War. The leaders of former colonial lands were looking for the best way to elect the head of a young democratic state. Months of debates preceded the final solution, according to which the president was to be elected by a special political body. It was a compromise decision that had to limit the power of most populated states and avoided relying on the members of Congress in the presidential election. The founding fathers discarded the idea of the popular vote because the voters of the late 18th century might not have lacked sufficient information about presidential candidates to be able to cast their ballot (Foley 2020). Before the first-ever elections of the US president took place, the Electoral College appeared as a rational compromise that would enhance the strengths of democracy.

Article II of the US Constitution that embedded the new political body in the political system does not explicitly mention the “Electoral College.” Instead, it describes the election process and the role of electors (Foley 2020). It was later modified by the 12th amendment in 1804 that introduced separate voting for the president and vice-president, and by the 23rd amendment in 1961 that granted district electors to the District of Columbia. However, the general features of the system remained without change: the people still elect the electors, who later appoint the US President and vice president.

The design of the Electoral College was derived from the population distribution in the thirteen original states that included Southern slave-owning states. As slaves couldn’t vote, it was decided that the population of slave-owning states would be calculated, counting three out of five Black men as one white (Foley 2020). It would limit the number of representatives of Southern states in Congress and the Electoral College. As political freedoms were a privilege of white men, the indirect voting system overlooked the political rights of women and ethnic minorities. Still, indirect elections are one of the distinctive features of American democracy.

How Does the Electoral College Work?

The candidates for electors are appointed by their political parties in every state. Their sole power is to cast their votes for the president and vice president of the US. The Constitution does not oblige the electors to vote for their party’s candidate, but most states require them to do so. Electing the electors occurs together with general elections in November; the Electoral College votes on the second Wednesday of December. The Electoral College decision has priority over the popular vote; an absolute majority is required to win the elections. If no candidate achieves an absolute majority of 270 votes, a contingent election is held when the House elects the president out of the three strongest candidates. The Senate then elects the vice president out of the two remaining candidates. In history, on five occasions, including in two presidential elections in the past six elections, the candidate who lost by the popular vote was elected president by the Electoral College.

How the Electoral College affects Presidential Campaign?

Indirect presidential elections are often criticized for undermining the democratic principle of “one person, one vote.” It is called archaic, racist, and unfair by its critics. Still, the voting system relying on the Electoral College body is unlikely to change in the upcoming future. Today’s presidential campaigns in the US occur with an agreement with this model. The presidential campaigns of candidates develop with regard to the number of electors’ votes in every state. The particular approach to the key states is crucial for the overall success of the campaign. The highly populated states with no traditionally preferred political party are called “swing states,” and they can determine the outcomes of the elections. (Foley 2020). One of the arguments against The Electoral College is that the power of “swing states” is too great in the political system. Others also note dramatic social changes that occurred over the past three centuries in America. Direct voting appears reasonable in a system where women and people of other races have gained full political rights.

However, arguments supporting the existing indirect voting system emphasize that the presidential campaigns are unlikely to become less state-oriented should the Electoral College be abolished. The problem yet remains that the Electoral College can omit thousands of people’s votes if the candidate who lost by the popular vote is elected. The public generally supports reforms of the system, with 58 percent of the people in favor of popular vote elections (Foley 2020). While the change in the presidential election process would demand a constitutional amendment, there are other ways to reform the system, such as obliging the electors to commit their votes to a candidate who has won a popular vote.


The Electorate College is a method of indirect election of president and vice-president in the US. It was established by Article II of the Constitution, which describes electing the head of the state. Instead of directly voting for president, people also cast their ballots for electors, who will later decide on the outcome of the elections. Five times in history, the candidates who won by the popular vote didn’t win the Electoral College. Two recent elections, in which the popular candidate lost the elections due to the indirect voting system, sparked debates about the necessity of a constitutional change. The Electorate College system is often criticized as outdated and unfair. While today’s presidential campaigns develop in agreement with the current system, approximately 58 percent of the population favor the popular vote.


Foley, E. B. (2020). Presidential elections and majority rule: the rise, demise, and potential restoration of the Jeffersonian electoral college. Oxford University Press.

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