The Electoral College explained


Courtesy of CNN News

A map of the results of the 2016 presidential election. Each state has a certain amount of electors that ultimately votes for their preferred candidate.

by Nicole Chen and Anjay Saklecha

Every four years, the American people use the electoral college system to determine the President and Vice President of the United States.

The electoral college is currently comprised of 538 electors, who cast their individual votes to elect the positions of President and Vice President. Each state’s electors are nominated by the state legislatures, either by way of state party committee nomination or campaigns for an elector spot, aggregating to a total of 538 individuals from 50 states and the District of Columbia. Whichever candidate wins 270 electoral votes first becomes the winner of the election.

Citizens who vote on Election Day contribute to the popular vote in a certain region or state, therefore supposedly binding the electors to the candidate with the most votes in that particular place. The electors then meet on Dec. 19 at their respective state capitals, at which time they will cast their individual ballots for the President and Vice President positions.

While there is no definite law that requires electors to vote according to the result of the popular vote in their state, some states call for votes casted in alignment with the majority. Other than possibly being bounded by popular vote, some electors are also pledged to political parties.

“In the Electoral College, states are allotted a certain amount of ‘electoral votes’ based on population—these votes are actually what determine the winner of the election [achieving 270 electoral votes is sufficient to win],” Alexander Lam (12) said. “I can’t speak to how much of the population understands the system, but I have generally noticed that people at Harker have at least a surface level understanding of how it works.”

While Trump won with 306 electoral votes to Clinton’s 232 in the 2016 presidential election, Clinton still has over 2.5 million more popular votes than Trump, even weeks after Election Day.

Due to the great discrepancy between electoral and popular votes, many individuals and parties have been pushing for recount in certain states within the past few weeks. The Green Party is pushing for recount in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania, all of which Trump won. These three states total to 46 votes, which could potentially alter the results of the election, according to BBC News.

While some recounts are driven by the vote inconsistency, many political figures, including three of the four former presidential candidates, have focused on recounts as they claimed the voting system to be rigged and unjust.

The electoral college was established in 1787, in conjunction with the formation of the Constitution, and was created to balance the power of Congress with the power of citizens in electing people to positions of high office.

In every election, certain states are solidly Republican and Democratic. As a result, the swing states, where support for both parties are close to equal, are often the consequential ones during an election.

However, in a state where a majority is ensured, the candidate only receives the same number of electoral votes, regardless of how many more popular votes they may have. In a swing state, a narrow margin in either direction can bind all electors of a state to one candidate.

In the 2016 presidential election, in which president-elect Donald Trump and former Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton were the major party nominees, many swing states Clinton was predicted to win in unexpectedly tilted in a different direction. Trump won in many swing states, such as Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, which eventually lead him to the majority votes.

“[The electoral college] gave a larger voice to small states than it would [have] be if the voting was simply due to population because then states like California would have outweighed those, as we see with the popular vote,” Michael Tseitlin (12) said.