8 Essential Facts to Know About the United States Electoral College

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The Electoral College is the unique system used in the United States to choose a new President. It is unlike any other voting system in the world, but it has been around since nearly the very beginning of the country. Understanding it a little better can make election night a little more exciting for those who are watching at home.

1. On Five Occasions, The Winner Of The Popular Vote Did Not Win

Do you think your vote for President goes directly to that person? Not so much. Actually, the Electoral College votes are the only ones that truly matter when it comes to electing a new President. They are supposed to represent the will of the people of the state from which they come from, but they are not necessarily required to do so.

The purpose of this system in the first place was to create a compromise between the will of the people, and the will of the Congress. What it means in practice is that sometimes the person with the most votes throughout the country is not the one who actually gets elected President. It has happened a total of five times in American history, including twice since the year 2000.

2. There Are Two States Without Winner-To-All Models

Almost every state has a winner-take-all system whereby the candidate with the most votes in that state (even if they do not garner a majority) gets all of the electoral votes. The two exceptions to the rule are Maine and Nebraska. They award their votes by Congressional district. Thus, sometimes a candidate can win the state but still lose out on a vote or two in the Electoral College due to this system.

3. The Electoral College Nearly Met Its Death In 1969

The House of Representatives voted largely in favor of eliminating the Electoral College in 1969 by a vote of 338 to 70 and President Nixon had publicly stated that he supported the measure. However, it was filibustered in the Senate and never made it to the President’s desk.

4. It Used To Be That The Second-Highest Vote Receiver Was Vice-President

For a brief period of time, the system was set up so that the President was the person who received the most electoral college votes, while the Vice-President was the second place finisher. That could make for some interesting pairs in today’s political environment. However, that system was thrown out the window early on when there was tension between some of the politicians of the 1800s.

5. Federal Employees Cannot Be Electors

The Constitution is very specific that Federal Employees cannot be electors. It is interesting that they specifically carve this out, but the founders fathers were particularly interested in keeping power from going to the heads of the current government at any given time.

6. Faithless Electors Do Exist

They are not entirely common, but there are people who can decide to vote for a candidate other than the one that they have sworn to vote for. These people are labeled as “faithless electors”. They have voted for candidates other than the one they were supposed to on any number of occasions. However, it is still considered an oddity when they do so.

7. Electors Cannot All Meet At The Same Place

It is forbidden that electors meet in one centralized location. It was feared that this would contribute to bribery. Instead, they meet at the various state capitols throughout the country. It is at this time that they cast their votes and that those votes are then sent on to Washington to be officially counted and confirmed in the House of Representatives.

8. The Constitution Never Refers To It As An Electoral College

The term “electoral college” did not come around for a very long time. It is not in the Constitution at any point, but it was written into Federal Law in 1845. It is funny that it is a term so often used in politics today, and yet it was not something put into our founding documents. Sometimes that is just how these kind of things work out.

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