Monday, September 10, 2012

The Electoral College

The Electoral College and at least 270 of the Electors are going to elect the next President of the United States.
by Charlie Leck

This December – sometime in the middle of the month – 538 citizens of the United States of America will cast their votes and elect the next President of the United States of America. These 538 people, who make up the Electoral College, will choose the man who will then be inaugurated in January to serve a four year term as our President.

Now you, in a variety of states, will go to the polls in November and give instructions to your representatives in the Electoral College. The electors from your state are pledged to vote as the majority of voters in his or her state instructs. Whichever candidate in your state gets the majority of the votes will have all of the electors of that state pledged to him. This system was created by the Second Article of the U.S. Constitution and was altered by 12th Amendment* in 1804.

How is it determined how many electors a state gets? It’s quite simple. A state will get a number of electors that is exactly equal to the number of U.S. Representatives and U.S. Senators it has. You can see a listing of those numbers on this page. New York will get, with its population of more than 19 million people, 29 electoral votes. It has 27 representatives in the House and 2 U.S. Senators. California, on the other hand, will get 55 electoral votes for its population of 37 million people. North Dakota, with 2 U.S. Senators and 1 Representative for its 672,500 people, will get only 3 electoral votes. The District of Columbia gets 3 electors.

It will take 270 electoral votes for a candidate to win the election and become President. Should no candidate get that many votes, the Constitution calls for the election to be decided in the House of Representatives. Such an election has only occurred only twice – in the election of Thomas Jefferson in 1801 and John Quincy Adams in 1825.

This system makes it possible for a candidate to lose the nationwide popular vote and still be elected to the Presidency. George W. Bush did it in 2000, when he lost the popular vote by approximately 450,000 votes to Al Gore, but won the required electoral votes.

Among the campaign directors of both candidates this year, there is a lot of concern about winning certain states. And, this is why I will spend a lot of time here over the next 55 days looking at what is happening in those certain states. It is why Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia are so important to the final outcome of this election- an election that is going to be so close that it will also require we keep our eyes on other states that could go either way – Arizona, Iowa, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Washington and Wisconsin.

Stay tuned! This is going to be a close one!


The text of the 12th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America
*The Electors shall meet in their respective states, and vote by ballot for President and Vice-President, one of whom, at least, shall not be an inhabitant of the same state with themselves; they shall name in their ballots the person voted for as President, and in distinct ballots the person voted for as Vice-President, and they shall make distinct lists of all persons voted for as President, and all persons voted for as Vice-President and of the number of votes for each, which lists they shall sign and certify, and transmit sealed to the seat of the government of the United States, directed to the President of the Senate.
The President of the Senate shall, in the presence of the Senate and House of Representatives, open all the certificates and the votes shall then be counted.
The person having the greatest Number of votes for President, shall be the President, if such number be a majority of the whole number of Electors appointed; and if no person have such majority, then from the persons having the highest numbers not exceeding three on the list of those voted for as President, the House of Representatives shall choose immediately, by ballot, the President. But in choosing the President, the votes shall be taken by states, the representation from each state having one vote; a quorum for this purpose shall consist of a member or members from two-thirds of the states, and a majority of all the states shall be necessary to a choice. And if the House of Representatives shall not choose a President whenever the right of choice shall devolve upon them, before the fourth day of March next following, then the Vice-President shall act as President, as in the case of the death or other constitutional disability of the President.[1]
The person having the greatest number of votes as Vice-President, shall be the Vice-President, if such number be a majority of the whole number of Electors appointed, and if no person have a majority, then from the two highest numbers on the list, the Senate shall choose the Vice-President; a quorum for the purpose shall consist of two-thirds of the whole number of Senators, and a majority of the whole number shall be necessary to a choice. But no person constitutionally ineligible to the office of President shall be eligible to that of Vice-President of the United States.

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