In the United States, 538 electoral votes are used to elect the president. Each state holds a certain no. of electoral votes, which are made of the number of representatives in the house, the total number of senators in the senate, and three additional electors representing the District of Columbia. Also, a candidate must receive at least 270 votes to win the presidency.
How is the number of electoral votes is determined?
Each state is allotted a specific number of electoral votes. The total number of electoral votes received by a state depends upon the number of congress members a state has. While each state holds two senators, the number of representatives in their house of representatives depends upon the population of that state.
So, the total number of electoral votes = No. of Senators + No. of representatives + additional electors representing the district of Columbia.
For example, California is hugely populated, and it has a total of 53 representatives in the house. So, it will have 55 electoral votes in total. On the other hand, Wyoming is a very less populated state which holds only one representative. Thus, it has a total of 3 electoral votes.
Origins of the U.S. Electoral College System
The US Electoral College system dates back to the year 1787 when the founding fathers of the United States had to fabricate the constitution. Due to the debate on how the President should be elected, the Electoral College system had to be introduced. It happened because some delegates thought that the president should be elected by the people, while some believed that congress should get to choose the President.
Benefits of Electoral College
Therefore, in the end, the US Electoral College system had to be introduced to reach a point of settlement. Here is how the US Electoral College is beneficial.
- Each state chooses Electors.
- The chosen electors cast their vote for the President.
- It’s a fair system because the number of electors a state has would be equal to the state’s number of Senators plus the total number of representatives.
- This kind of settlement balanced the perks and powers of more populous states against the less populous ones.
- This system ensures that the president is chosen by a body independent of Congress and gives people a role to participate in the elections by letting them choose their state electors.
- In the current times also, the US electoral college remains functional. Hence it’s the only way to select the president or the vice president of the United States every four years.
How does the Electoral College function?
In the United States, a group of people from the Electoral College votes to elect the President and the Vice President of the United States. Based on the number of members of Congress, the state is given a certain number of electoral votes. On election day, the people in each state vote for their preferred candidate, and the candidate who wins the highest number of votes in a state gets all the electoral votes. These candidates then gather together in December to cast their final votes for the President and the Vice President of the United States. The candidate with at least 270 electoral votes is selected as the president. If no candidate gets 270 votes, the decision goes into the hands of the House of Representatives. Despite this, some people believe the Electoral College is unfair since a candidate could win the highest number of votes and still lose the election.
The Advantages and Disadvantages of the Electoral College System
- With the Electoral College System, even the smaller states get equal representation. Each state has a minimum of 3 electoral votes giving the smaller states a larger influence on the elections.
- The Electoral College system ensures that the election is independent of Congress and not contested. Also, the President is always elected based on the majority of the electoral votes.
- Under the Electoral College system, the president is elected by a group who are independent of Congress. Doing so balances the power between different branches of the government.
- The Electoral College system makes cheating in the election significantly difficult since it would require several states to undergo an unfair election to affect the outcome of the presidential elections in the United States.
- The voters get to choose candidates across a wide range of states, rather than electing people from the most populous states. Thus, the Electoral College system promotes geographic diversity.
- This system also follows the federal system of government, which is fabricated to equally balance and distribute the power to the states rather than centralizing the power.
- There is a possibility of the candidate winning the presidential election without actually winning the popular vote. This situation has happened consecutively since the past five presidential elections. Even in the 2016 election, Trump won the presidency with a total number of 304 votes, even though he lost the popular vote to Hillary Clinton.
- Since, in some states, only one party gets to dominate, it might discourage some people from casting their votes. Thus, this makes the results of the elections predetermined, and voters may feel that casting a vote won’t make a difference.
Though there have been several other criticisms, it remains a functional and dynamic system to elect the President and the Vice President of the United States. Since it is exalted as a part of the U.S. Constitution, it can’t be reformed or changed easily.
In conclusion, the Electoral College has been the most functional and convenient system for holding presidential elections. It has a total number of 538 electoral votes, which are allocated to each state. And these votes are given on the basis of the total number of Senators and Representatives in Congress.