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Electoral College

Page history last edited by mberry 14 years, 4 months ago

Previous Section: Presidential Elections                                                                                                                        Next Section: Financing


The Electoral College


Frequently asked Questions:


What is the Electoral College?

The Electoral College is an institution created by the framers of the Constitution.  They created this body as a way to separate the elite from the non-elite in society (president elected by U.S. Congress and the election by popular vote).  The Electoral College is comprised of 538 electors representing all 50 states and the District of Columbia.


Does it still apply today?

This question is often asked.  Critics argue that the Electoral College system is outdated, however no suggestion as to what should replace it has been carried through. 


What is the faithless elector problem?

The faithless elector problem refers to the fact that electors are human and may not always be trustworthy.  When the electors meet to vote in December they may choose not to vote for the candidate to which they previously pledged.  If enough electors are faithless they could change the outcome of an election.


Why do we still have the Electoral College?

Since the Electoral College establishment is part of the Constitution, a Constitutional amendment would have to be passed, in order to change the system.  And many argue that the Electoral College is one way to sort of even out state power (since all states have at least 3 votes).


How does the Electoral College affect the presidential elections?

The presidential elections are determined not by the final popular vote but by the Electoral College vote.  Since each state is given a number of electors, the winner of the presidential election in each state wins all of that state's electors (except in Maine and Nebraska).  This process is often called the winner-take-all system.


How does the process differ in Maine and Nebraska?

In Maine and Nebraska, the congressional district method is used rather than the winner-take-all system.  This means that the Maine and Nebraska can spilt their electoral votes.  Maine has four electoral votes and two congressional districts.  One electoral vote is awarded per district, and the two remaining electoral votes are awarded by the "at large vote."  In Nebraska, there are five electoral votes, two based on the statewide vote and the remaining three based on the results in the congressional districts.



How is the number of electors determined for each state?

Each state is given a certain amount of electors.  This amount is determined by the sum of the state's federal legislators, that is, the senators plus the representatives.


Who selects the electors?

The electors are generally selected by the poltical parties at state party conventions, however this process does vary throughout the country.  Electors are also selected by a vote of the party's central committee in each state.  On the day of the general election, voters in each state, choose the electors.


Who are the electors?

Electors are often state elected officials, party leaders, or people who have a personal or political relationship with the presidential candidate.  The electors usually have to state their dedication to their political party.


Are there any qualifications for becoming an elector?

The Consitution provides very little information describing the qualification of electors.  Article II, section 1, clause 2 says that a senator or representative or a person holding and Office of Trust of Profit can be selected as an elector.


Need a break?  Check out this video describing the Electoral College.


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Gill, Kathy, “How Does the Electoral College Work?” About.com U S Politics,

            http://www.uspolitics.about.com/od/presidenc1/tp/electoral_college.html > (12 December 2009)


Harris, Julie Murchison, “Why Maine splits its electoral votes,” 27 October 2008,  http:/www.banfordailynews.com/detail/91960.html > (12 December 2009). 


Meltzer, Tony and Paul Levy, eds., Cracking the AP U.S. Government & Politics Exam 2010

            Edition. New York: Random House, Inc., 2009.


“U.S. Electoral College Frequently Asked Questions” U.S. Electoral Collegehttp://www.archives.gov/federal-register/electoral-college/faq.html#whyelectoralcollege     

          (30 November 2009).



“Electoral College Image”  http://www.qshirts.com/ELECTORA.JPG> (25 November 2009).



“Electoral College Video” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FaPlIcQw_dg&feature=related> (25 November 2009).



Comments (1)

mberry said

at 9:45 am on Nov 17, 2009

Still explain how Neb and Maine differ and perhaps discuss the controversy surrounding the electoral college! :~)

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