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What is the Electoral College?

By Edited Nov 13, 2013 3 6

The 'What, Who, and When' of the Electoral College

On Tuesday, November 6, 2012, eligible citizens of the United States of America will go out and vote for the candidate of their choice for President and Vice President. Voting is both a right and a privilege; it is one that every eligible citizen has, and one that should be exercised. Voting, and making your voice heard, is the backbone of democracy. While it is important that you vote, and while the popular vote is very important, it is the Electoral College, who will cast the final vote when selecting the President and the Vice President.


What is the Electoral College? – Be Sure to Vote!
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What is the Electoral College?

This is one of the most frequently asked questions leading up to, and following, Election Day. The electoral vote was established by our Founding Fathers, and it was used, in 1789, to elect George Washington as our first President. ("The Electoral College elected Washington unanimously as the first president in 1789,[Note 5] and again in the 1792 election; he remains the only president to have received 100 percent of the electoral votes.")[3197]

Quoted from the Constitution of the United States: Article. II. Section.1.

Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors, equal to the whole Number of Senators and Representatives to which the State may be entitled in the Congress: but no Senator or Representative, or Person holding an Office of Trust or Profit under the United States, shall be appointed an Elector.[3198]

Each of our 50 states has two Senators, equaling 100 electoral votes. Our House of Representatives has 435 members, equaling 435 electoral votes. Washington, D. C. has 3 electoral votes. All total, that is 538 electoral votes. A chart[3199] showing the distribution of electors, for each state, can be found near the end of this article.


Who are the Electors?

Each of the political parties will select electors to serve in the Electoral College. Electors are chosen in many ways; sometimes, it is simply a reward for being a strong supporter of the party. In some states, the names of the electors may even be listed on the ballot. However, these designations have no real meaning, unless the political party they represent wins their state, with the highest popular vote. If that happens, then these electors will be the ones to vote in the Electoral College, for their state. Once the official counting of the popular vote is finalized, a “Certificate of Ascertainment”[3200] is prepared by the Governor of the State. This Certificate contains all the names of the electors who were chosen, and the number of votes received. This document is prepared and filed according to “Certificates of Ascertainment Preparation and Distributions Instructions.”


When do the Electors, to the Electoral College, Vote?

Federal law mandates that the electors meet, “On the first Monday after the second Wednesday in December ...  .”[3201] It is then, that the electors will cast their votes. They are entitled to vote once for the President and once for the Vice President. Their votes are then documented on a “Certificate of Vote,”[3202] which lists the number of votes for the President and the Vice President, and it is signed by each of the electors. The “Certificate of Vote” must be prepared and filed according to the “Certificate of Vote Preparation and Distribution Instructions.” After these documents have been filed with the proper authorities, the electors’ job is complete.


What is the Final Step in the Election of the United States President and Vice President?

The next step in the election process is for Congress to count the Electoral College votes. Of the 538 votes, one presidential and one vice presidential candidate must receive at least 270 votes to be named President and Vice President.


Whose Vote is More Important - the Electors or Mine?

The important thing to remember about your vote, is that every vote does counts, so vote for your candidate. Your candidate’s electors will not get the chance to vote in the Electoral College unless your candidate wins the popular vote in your state. And since most of our states (all but Maine and Nebraska) operate on the winner-take-all principle, the candidate with the most votes in your state takes the electors’ votes.


Available Electoral Votes in 2012, 2016, and 2020 - Who Will Claim Them?

Based on the 2010 Census, the following table shows the number and the distribution of the electoral votes. These electoral votes will not only apply to the 2012 presidential election, but also to the 2016 and the 2020 presidential elections. There are a total of 538 votes; the winning ticket will need to secure 270 of these votes to become the President and Vice President.

Alabama

9

Alaska

3

Arizona

11

Arkansas

6

California

55

Colorado

9

Connecticut

7

Delaware

3

Florida

29

Georgia

16

Hawaii

4

Idaho

4

Illinois

20

Indiana

11

Iowa

6

Kansas

6

Kentucky

8

Louisiana

8

Maine

4

Maryland

10

Massachusetts

11

Michigan

16

Minnesota

10

Mississippi

6

Missouri

10

Montana

3

Nebraska

5

Nevada

6

New Hampshire

4

New Jersey

14

New Mexico

5

New York

29

North Carolina

15

North Dakota

3

Ohio

18

Oklahoma

7

Oregon

7

Pennsylvania

20

Rhode Island

4

South Carolina

9

South Dakota

3

Tennessee

11

Texas

38

Utah

6

Vermont

3

Virginia

13

Washington

12

West Virginia

5

Wisconsin

10

Wyoming

3

Washington, D. C.

3


In Closing

There is always a lot of discussion about the pros and cons of the Electoral College. Whether the Electoral College is a good system or an antiquated one is not the point of this article. Instead, the point is to understand our election process.

As citizens, the most important thing we can do is to VOTE! And as we go out to cast our vote for our candidate, appreciate the fact that we live in a free country, and can vote. Choose wisely. Remember: She or he will be speaking for us, protecting our rights, and guiding America’s future - the place where our children and their children will live.

Author’s Note: I have enjoyed writing, “What is the Electoral College?” It was nice to refresh my knowledge of the workings of the Electoral College.


Resources:

http://www.archives.gov/federal-register/electoral-college/about.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electoral_College_%28United_States%29


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Comments

Apr 10, 2012 2:18am
askformore
Thank you for this very informative article. I like your very precise style. Thumbs up!
Apr 16, 2012 9:40am
southerngirl09
Thanks for your read and comment, Askformore!
Apr 25, 2012 5:47pm
jeni10
I'd forgotten all the details concerning the Electoral College. This is a very well-written and informative article. And with the upcoming presidential elections this year, your article will serve as an awesome resource for voters. Thanks for sharing, and congrats on your feature...you earned it, Southerngirl!
May 8, 2012 9:40pm
southerngirl09
Thanks, Jeni10! I appreciate your read and kind words. I hope the article will be helpful to people as election time nears.
Apr 25, 2012 6:49pm
TimJohnJr
Its nice that you refreshed my knowledge on the workings of the Electoral College too! Now I can describe it to my co-workers. Great read!
May 8, 2012 10:04pm
southerngirl09
I appreciate your comment, TimJohnJr. Since it is election year I thought I should refresh my memory of how the Electoral College works. Thanks for the read.
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Bibliography

  1. "George Washington." Wikipedia. 31/03/2012 <Web >
  2. "The Constitution of the United States: A Transcription." National Archives. 31/03/2012 <Web >
  3. "Electoral College (United States)." Wikipedia. 31/03/2012 <Web >
  4. "Certificates of Ascertainment." National Archives, U.S. Electoral College. 31/03/2012 <Web >
  5. "Responsibilities of the States in the Presidential Election." National Archives, U.S. Electoral College. 31/03/2012 <Web >
  6. "Certificates of Vote." National Archives, U.S. Electoral College. 31/03/2012 <Web >

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