On the way to US Election 2020 on Tuesday (3rd November), many Americans would be excited to vote for their next president. Now how would they feel if the president with the most public votes doesn’t win the election? It is possible because Americans may have the right to vote but not to elect the president. In 1787, after delegates signed America’s first governing document, the founding fathers of the US constitution argued for months over the election of the first president. Some preferred to let congress choose the president and others were in favor of the popular vote. Finally, they made a rushed compromise with an impractical blend of both options which was later known as Electoral College.
It is a formal body comprised of ‘electors’ that represent various states. Their electoral vote can take precedence over the popular vote from the citizens of the US. Ever since its formation, five presidents have won the elections despite losing the popular vote. In the US Elections of 2016, Donald Trump also became president like this, otherwise, the popular vote was with Hillary Clinton. Generations throughout the years have criticized the existence of this system which has the ability to compromise the people’s choice. Democratic Bernie Sanders, who dropped out of presidential race in April, also raised voice to stop using this system.
How Does Electoral College Work?
When Americans go to vote in elections, they actually vote for the electors who then decides for the whole state. In other words, there are no national elections, there are 50 separate state elections. The Constitution assigns the number of electors according to the total number of US congress members in each state. Since 1964, there have been a total of 538 electors from all states. A candidate needs a majority of 270 electoral votes to become president.
This is why two dominant political parties of America try to increase their delegates in each state so they recruit 270 congressmen in their favor before the other party. US congress consists of 435 representatives and 100 senators across all states and 3 electors in District of Columbia (DC). These electors from each state are then classified into different slates depending on the candidate they have pledged to vote for.
Voters from majority of states cast a single vote for this slate of electors. The slate which wins the most popular votes gets elected on 3rd November. Then after a month, these electors assemble in their respective states to vote for the candidates they represent. A joint session of US congress counts and certifies the results of electoral voting in January. If no candidate gets the 270 electoral votes, then the representatives elect the President and senators elect the vice president. This is called contingent election and it has happened three times in the US history; 1801, 1825, and 1837. Let’s recall the 1800 elections as example in which Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr received same number of electoral votes. In the following year, it became necessary to do a contingent election to decide who could be president and vice president.
Why Is It Still In Place?
The intended purpose of the Electoral College was made up of few expectations. First, to resolve opposing state and federal interests; second, to provide some kind of public participation in the election; third, add some leverage for states with less population by providing a politically experienced elector; and fourth, to preserve the presidency and election process from political manipulation.
The process was slightly changed after 1804 in the 12th Amendment to the US constitution. Previously, the electors casted two votes for the president and none for the vice president. The runner-up was usually elected as a vice president. The 12th Amendment replaced this system with a separate ballot for both president and vice president. The Electoral College system did not function like it was intended and only prescribed basic elements. Which also means that it left a massive room for improvement but nobody capitalized on it.
There is a large debate on whether this electoral system is necessary for the country. Critics argue that maybe it was necessary once because of the uneducated, ill-mannered, and ill-informed people at the beginning of contemporary America. However, more and more Americans started to inform themselves through education in modern times. They try to raise their voice because the way leaders are running things over here, has raised very loud alarms. The majority of voters would love to get rid of the Electoral College system in favor of a national vote. So, they can choose the candidate whoever they think would be suitable for the country.