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Electoral College Who?
by Renee Lara

      Whenever a U.S. Presidential Campaign goes on, many hear about this particular term 'Electoral College.' It is mentioned in the TV, radio, Internet, and so on, and it appears to be quite an important ‘place.’ But what exactly is the Electoral College? Is it an institution for the elite politicians wanna be? Where is it located? Washington, California, Nebraska, or perhaps in little old Texas? How can we get into it? Is this like a University? Public, State, or Private institution? Who knows! The only obvious thing is that it has to do with choosing the president of the United States. Choosing the president? Who chooses the president of the United States? Do the People choose the president or this so-called ‘College’ does?

      In part, the people choose the president... in part the Electoral College. How can this be? Well, the truth of the matter is that the people only choose the president in an indirect manner. The Electoral College was created to elect the president and vice president of the United States, but allowing voters to indicate their choice by having electors who are chosen by the voters of each state. Each political party has their own electors, and when everybody votes on November 5th (or actually everybody that is at least 18 years old and a valid registered voter), the winning party’s electors cast the states’ votes for the candidates chosen... HUH? This is actually a lot more complicated than it sounds...

      On March, registered voters voted in a series of Primaries in which they had to choose the Democrat, Liberal, Reform, Republican, or any of the other parties. These people did not choose a president, or vice president, or sheriff, or whatever. They chose a party, which means that, for example, if they were Republicans, but for some reason they did not like Dole but liked all others in the party they did not have the opportunity to vote Democrat or something else for president. Yes, it is an all or nothing in the primaries. Remember that in March, the people vote for the Party, not for the candidate.

      After all the voting concludes, each party has a caucus (meeting) in which delegates for that party are chosen to go to the party’s County Convention. In that County Convention other delegates will be chosen to go to the party’s State Convention. And finally, in the State Convention more delegates are chosen to attend the great National Convention, where the actual voting will be done. The total amount of electors who will vote in the National Convention is the same as the total amount of senators and representatives that each state has (e.g. Texas has 32 electoral votes, since it has 30 representatives and 2 senators). This means that the total votes in the National Convention will be 535 (435 representatives + 100 senators), right? Nope. There will be a total of 538. But why? Because even though the District of Columbia is not a state, it has a great population that deserves to be represented at the National Convention. The District of Columbia has 3 electoral votes. Those 538 electors are the ones that directly choose the president of the United States on the 1st Monday after the 2nd Wednesday in December. So, if they are the ones to vote, why do the general public even bother?!

      Simple... well, kind of simple. Remember the primaries? Each party in each state had their own electors, for example, Texas had 32 Democratic electors, 32 Liberal electors, 32 Reformists electors, 32 Republican electors, plus etc. When the people vote on November 5th of 1996, any candidate will win in the state by Popular Vote. The winner gets the electoral votes (in other words, only the electors of the winning party get to go to the National Convention). That means that (using Texas as an example, again) even if Dole gets 2,586,999 popular votes, Clinton 3,999,999, and Perot 4,000,000, Perot wins all the 32 votes! The votes are not divided, or anything. Yep... this is a Winner-Take-All thing. The same thing happens in Wisconsin, Florida, New York, Nevada.... and so on. That is why it is so important that all the ones who can vote, to do so; because only the electors of the popular vote winning party (and only them) will get to vote for that state in the National Convention (and obviously, if the winning party is Democrat... all the 32 electors will vote Democrat - however, exceptions do occur). This means that it is mathematically possible to receive more popular votes than any other candidate, but still loose the presidency, unfortunately. In the National Convention, whoever gets at least 270 votes wins.

This is quite a complicated system, is it not? There has been continuous dissatisfaction with the Electoral College... nonetheless the institution is still alive and well... Why is that? Can it be fixed?

So what do you think?

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Your Responses!

Unknown's comment: The College!?!?!?!?! Hell, I say scrap the whole damn system and go libertarian!!!!

Mandi's comment: The electoral college is out of date. It's usefulness has diminished. When the E.C. was formed the country was full of farmers and uneducated people (not saying farmers are uneducated by anyone's imagination.) The United States has hence been filled with a, for the most part, educated population. We have minds and can think for ourselves. There's my two cents.

Unknown's comment: Well, you probably won't like this, but I feel you're looking at the problem entirely backwards. The populace by and large is voting based on good vibes and good looks rather than for a candidates actual governing qualities which will make him either effective or lame. Since, the system only currently allows indirect voting-in on behalf of the public, why not eliminate the public's "right" to vote altogether!? Yes, I know the AFL-CIO is writing down my name as I write this, however, I feel the best president's were the first 16 elected without the public and I think history will back me up.

Robert's comment:The college is a good way for voteing for the pres.

Unknown's comment: I am a government student making last ditch effort to make an "A" for the term. I must deliver a seven minute speech focusing on why Americans are better able to make political choices than they were when the EC was est., hence supporting the abolition of the EC.
-All suggestions are welcomed!!!
E-mail to

PS- the speech is due Thurs. the 22

hamilton's comment:i love the electoral college. without it the people would have too much power. they may chose someone who would not be able to effectively govern.

Jenn R. (Miss Mudlitz's class)'s comment: I think it should be changed. I don't think it should be totally trashed, but at least changed a liitle. Having it be winer takes all for te stae votes is not entirely fair. The larger states are under-represented and the smaller states ae over-represented. The votes should be divided proportionally.

JDH's comment:I think the electoral college is good. Ross Perot deserves 32 votes anyways.

JR's comment: I think the electoral college is a bad system of choosing a president. i think the people should be allowed to directly elect the president.

Johnny Danger's comment: The electoral college is rediculus. I say that there is no need for it. Number one, if you ask someone the question "who elects the president?", they will say the people do. Not to many people realize that the electoral college actually has the final say. Anyway, who are these guys that "vote for us". They are our representatives and senators. Just because they represent us in congress doesn't mean that they should essentially tell us who will be our president. As the declaration of independance says, all men are created equally and therefore all should have an equal say wheather you are a politician or a regular law abiding citizen. "We the people" should have full rights to elect and say who will be our president and represent and make decisions for our country, just as we elect the people who repreent us in congress.

J. L.'s comment:This electoral college our ever so trusting founding fathers concieved is a simple yet complicated scheme to let the people think they are important in the formation of their government. This may sound like a contradiction but the reason this concept was made to be so complicated was so people can never quite understand it. The government doesn't THINK the public won't make good choices. They just KNOW 2/3 of the public (probably more) are choosing the president according to his campaign advertisment. One must face the fact that the majority of americans let their minds be flooded with brainwashing commercialization on TV for many more hours a week than can possibly be healthy. The only way the E.C. could be safely abolished would be if all registered voters could be trusted to make the best decisions possible. This, however, looks to be hoplessly proven immpossible because of the lethargic, easy-way-out attitude of the majority of the american public today.

SI's comment: The elactoral college seems somewhat useless as portrayed in this web site, however there must be something, suh as controlling 3rd parties that is worth keeping it around for.

JC's comment: there is no need for the electoral college. instead it should just be a direct vote.

Last Updated: 27 October, 1999.
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