Definition of the Electoral College?

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Updated: Mar 14, 2023
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The dictionary definition of the Electoral College is defined as a body of people representing the states of the United State, who formally cast votes for the election of the president and vice president.

When first hearing this name, you may think to believe it to be some kind of school system where people go to learn things all about politics, but that is not what this is, it’s not even a place. The Electoral College is a thing; an idea; a process; that elects the President of our country, the United States.

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The Constitutional Convention of 1787 is when the electoral college came to be an actual idea. The convention was held to help consider several methods of electing the President, including selection by Congress, the governors of the states, the state legislatures, a group of Members of Congress chosen by lot, and direct popular election by the people. Late in the convention, the matter was referred to the Committee of Eleven on Postponed Matters, which devised the electoral college system in its original form. The Committee of Eleven on Postponed Matters included James Madison, John Dickinson, Roger Sherman and Gouverneur Morris, but it was James Wilson who had promoted the idea before the committee met in secret. This plan, which met with a widespread approval of delegates, was incorporated into the final document, the constitution, with very minimal changes. It sought to square up differing state and federal interests, provide a degree of popular vote in the election, give the less populous states some additional leverage if population size is drastically different, preserve the presidency as a separate and independent of Congress, and to shield the election process from any political manipulation. At least four other methods were also proposed to elect the President and Vice President: election by Congress, election by state governors, election by state legislatures, and direct election by voters.

The Electoral College was created as a compromise at the 1787 Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia. The Constitution’s Article II, Section 1 spells out the Electoral College rules. Text of Article 2, Section 1: “The executive Power shall be vested in a President of the United States of America. … The Electors shall meet in their respective States, and vote by Ballot for two Persons, of whom one at least shall not be an Inhabitant of the same State with themselves.” A majority of electors is needed to elect a President; members of Congress or people holding a United States office can’t be electors; electors can’t pick two presidential candidates from their own state, and Congress determines when the electors meet within their states or the federal district. The total number of Electoral College members equals the number of people in Congress plus three additional electors from the District of Columbia.

When people vote for president they are really voting for an elector from their state. Each state has a certain number of electors. These electors then vote for president.

Each state gets an elector for each member of Congress from that state. That is one for each member from the state in the House of Representatives, which is based on the population of the state, and two more for the state’s two senators. For example, California gets fifty-five electors, North Carolina gets fifteen, and Wyoming get three. Anyone who can vote can be an elector. The only people prevented from being electors are certain political leaders such as Senators and Representatives. Most electors are people who have been loyal and dedicated members of their political party for a long time, not just any person walking the streets, even though it’s still possible but not likely.

Today, many people think that the Electoral College is too complicated and unfair and should be abolished. They think the total popular vote should determine the president, instead of the popular and electoral college process combined.

The current process protects state’s rights. The United States is a republic, and each state should be able to delegate and divide up its electors as it sees fit. The Electoral College keeps high population states and regions from deciding the presidency. Without the Electoral College, a huge popular margin in big states like Texas, Florida, or California, could decide the entire election. So, the Electoral College keeps smaller states like New York, relevant in the vote and politics of the United States.

The Electoral College also provides a clear result in the election that is accurate almost every time. It was thought that the larger the Electoral College, the more likely that it would correctly reflect the popular vote. This was the conclusion reached by two California State University mathematicians in an analysis of the 2000 Presidential election, in which Al Gore received a higher percentage of the popular vote, but George Bush won the majority of the electoral voters.

Another Advantage the Electoral College provides is that is makes it way easier for candidates to campaign for their election. If you’re a Democrat running for president, you don’t have to spend too much time or money trying to convince voters in democratic California and the same goes for Republican state, Texas. The fact that certain states and their electoral votes are safely in the column of one party or the other makes it easier and way cheaper for candidates to campaign successfully because they have “secure” states. They can focus their money and time on the swing states like Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Wisconsin.

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Definition of the Electoral College?. (2019, Sep 20). Retrieved from