The Electoral College explained


This map represents the electoral points for each state (highlight green means swing state). Credit: Bella Dombrowski

Bella Dombrowski

“Confusing” is probably one of the first words to pop into someone’s head when thinking of the United States election and the electoral college system. The general election is held on the Tuesday after the first Monday of November and the candidate to get 270 or more electoral votes wins. The electoral college was created as a middle ground between popular vote and election through congress. According to The National Archives, one group of delegates in 1787 wanted to use a strictly popular vote system while another group wanted to use a strict congress voting system so they came to a compromise. At first, they were only going to have the state representatives vote but they thought it would give the legislature more power. Thus the electoral college was created and implemented in 1804.


Since the electoral college works on both election by popular vote and election by Congress vote it works on an odd system. When people vote on election day their votes are eventually counted and the majority wins that state. That’s the popular aspect but the electoral aspect is implemented in the electoral points given to each state that total up to 538l, the voting majority that wins gets the electoral points for the state which is then added up with the other state’s majority. In the rare occurrence of an electoral vote tie, the house of Representatives decides through their state. If a decision isn’t made by at least two-thirds of the state’s representatives then the vice president will become president.


Each election has key states that can really help determine the president; these are called swing states. Jessica Pearce Rotondi from states that “Swing states, also known as battleground states or purple states, are highly competitive states that have historically swung between voting for different parties in presidential elections”. Swing states in the 2020 election are Michigan, Wisconsin, Nevada, Texas, Florida, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Arizona, North Carolina, New Hampshire, and Ohio. They all add up to 189 electoral votes ranging from four to thirty-eight and can change from year to year. Since some states have a greater electoral worth someone’s vote in Texas would not weigh the same as someone’s vote in Alaska. Electoral points are decided by several senators and representatives. Many of the swing states are in-between Republicans and Democrats making the election guesswork until it happens. Since these states are harder to predetermine, candidates target them the most.


The electoral college is not without its ups and downs, a big flaw being that it might simply be outdated. An article from Britannica Mentions the big faults in the system. A large one being the underlying reason for its creation. It was made as a way to give voices to the less populated southern states but mainly pushed this because slaves couldn’t vote. They also thought that uneducated people would cast their vote not knowing what their candidate’s platform was, but now with a few clicks, we can see exactly what that candidate plans on doing. It also can go against what the majority of people want. In the 2016 election Democratic candidate, Hillary Clinton got almost three million more votes than opponent Donald Trump and still lost. Some of its upsides include spreading campaigning out much more so a few states aren’t the only ones targeted and allow each state to have a voice in the election no matter population. It also makes sure there isn’t too much power to anyone state.


Simply put, whatever party gets the most votes for their state gets the points and your vote’s worth is dependent on your state. Even with its flaws and advantages, it has shaped U.S elections since 1787. For more on the election read Nicole’s article.