The Electoral College and the American Idea of Democracy
The Second Article of the Constitution established the Electoral College as a compromise between the founders who argued for the election of the President by a vote in Congress and those for the election of the President by a popular vote of all citizens. In 1803, the Twelfth Amendment was included, revising the procedures that the Electoral College had previously run on. Another goal of creating the Electoral College was to prevent the Southern States from over empowering the less populous Northern States. Also, “The founders didn’t want direct election of the President and Vice President because they felt the voters in the early days of the nation would not know enough about all the candidates to make wise decisions” (How the Electoral College Operates). Furthermore, this process helped guarantee that the election of the President would not be heavily based on the national government and the individual states. When voting for President, the last ballots that are casted are from the members of the Electoral College.
“The Electoral College consists of 538 electors. A majority of 270 electoral votes are required to elect the President” (What is the Electoral College?). In the fall, in each state, each party on the ballot chooses persons to be electors pledged to vote for particular candidates when the electors meet in mid-December. So when you vote for the Democratic candidate or the Republican candidate, you’re voting for electors who pledged to vote for one of them during the December meeting of the electors. On the first Tuesday in November, when voters go to the polls around the country and cast their ballots for President and Vice President, they are voting for a slate of electors. In mid-December, the electors of each state gather at the state capitol to cast their votes. During a joint session of Congress in the House of Representatives with the Vice President presiding, on January 6, the votes are officially opened and counted. A candidate must receive 270 of the 538 electoral votes to become President or Vice President. If a candidate for President fails to receive 270 votes, each state receives one vote, and it’s up to the House members from that state to decide how to cast the vote. The Senate will choose from among the two candidate who received the most popular votes in the race election for Vice President. The person selected by the Senate as Vice President will serve as President until the House chooses a President. If no one receives 270 votes and the House and the Senate are unable to elect a President and Vice President, the Speaker of the House, who is next in the line of succession, becomes Acting President on January 20 until the House can elect a President.
The Electoral College is still an effective system when it comes to the election of the President of the United States. Although the reasons that the founders created this system are no longer relevant, there are still major impacts that the Electoral College has on elections. Specifically, the Electoral College ensures that all parts of the country are involved in selecting the President of the United States, even the small populated areas. If the election depended solely on the popular vote, then candidates could limit campaigning to heavily-populated areas or regions. The Electoral College is altered every ten years to reflect population shifts. For example, farmers in Texas may have extremely different concerns than bankers in Chicago. To win the election, presidential candidates need electoral votes from multiple regions; therefore, their campaign platforms must be nationally based if they wish to win. “The electoral process can also create a larger mandate to give the president more credibility; for example, President Obama received 51.3% of the popular vote in 2012 but 61.7% of the electoral votes. In 227 years, the winner of the popular vote has lost the electoral vote only five times. This proves the system is working” (The Electoral College).
To sum up, the Electoral College still plays a major role when electing the President of the United States. If a candidate wins the popular vote for President, they are not guaranteed the office. When citizens of the United States vote for a Presidential candidate, they are also voting for their states electors. Then the electors are the last to cast their ballots in December at their states capitol. A candidate must receive 270 votes from the Electoral College. Without the Electoral College, the Presidential campaigns would not be focused nationally, but rather the areas with a large population.