ELECTORAL COLLEGE-Almost every vote counts

Every four years the President of the United States is chosen by the Electoral College, a nondescript group with a single extraordinary responsibility–but who they are, how they are chosen, and what  exactly they do  remains a mystery to many at Valley College, until now.

By D.R. Harward, staff writer

In less than 30 days, voters will head to the polls where they will be asked to chose from a plethora of measures and contenders for public offices–an active demonstration of democracy in action. For over 200 years, Americans have prided themselves on being a participatory democracy, government for the people, selected by the people–with one glaring exception, our commander in chief. It’s ironic. A society  founded upon the concept that citizens have a voice in  choosing the architects of their destiny; there are only a select few whose votes actually count in the process.

The highest office in the land is the only position that we do not directly fill via common vote. In fact, on election day, a vote for Hillary or Trump is a vote for a slate of Electors who have pledged their support to that particular candidate. In California, the Electors of the candidate who receives the most popular votes will become the official state delegation. In early January, the votes are tallied and certified by a joint session of Congress who then officially announce the winner.

The Electoral College process is a mystery to many Americans, perhaps this is due to the infrequency that it is used or to the ‘behind-the-scenes’ nature of the process.

Is the Electoral College a member of the National Collegiate Athletic Association?” asked Joe, a kinetics major.

No, the Electoral College is not that kind of college. According to William C. Kimberling, Deputy Director FEC National Clearinghouse on Election Administration, the word “college” is here as an unexpected nod to the institutional process upon which it was originally based; the College of Cardinals, the body that selects a new Pope in the Roman Catholic Church.

The Electoral College is the collective name given to 51 separately gathered groups of electors that total 538. Each state and the District of Columbia have a different number of electors based upon their total number of congressional representatives. California has the most with 55, followed by Texas with 38 and New York with 29, while seven states and D.C. have only three each.

When happens after I vote for president?” inquired Melanie a sophomore, while waiting in line to buy a parking pass.

The U.S. Constitution requires that the president be chosen via indirect representation, so when you cast your ballot in November, you  aren’t  directly voting  for the president. In California, and many other states, the candidate with the most votes in the state wins the right to have their unique slate of electors join the College when it meets in December- in other words, it is winner take all.

In early December each group meet in their respective state capitols; each Elector then casts two ballots, one for president and the other for vice president.

” Just who are these so-called Electors and how are they chosen?” wondered Gohar, an aspiring political science major.

It may be easier to identify who they are not–according to the National Archives and Records Administration, “no Senator or Representative or Person holding Office of Trust or Profit under the United States may be appointed an Elector.” With the exception of that very small group,  as long as one is over 18 and has been a resident of the state for at least 15 days–anyone can be an Elector in California, theoretically even an unregistered non-citizen.

However, the method of selecting Electors is different in each state–in California it is different for each party.

What an archaic system, can’t we change it?,” asked Phil , a third-year sophomore.

Even though it can be changed and a lot of people want it to be changed, it is unlikely to happen anytime soon. In June, a Gallup poll found that: “when it comes to doing away with the Electoral College, 63 percent would abolish this unique, but sometimes controversial, mechanism for electing presidents…”

Changing the electoral college system would require an amendment to the Constitution, which is a difficult task. However, because the current system ensures the political parties that control American politics, and because almost all of the people who have the power to change it are members of political parties–the chances are slim-to-none that any change will take  place.

Yet, despite the obstacles, the National Archives report that over 700 proposals have been introduced in Congress to reform the electoral college system- more than any other issue in our nations’ history.




  1. Changing the electoral college system (to a different system-such as the popular vote system)  DOES require the amendment of the US Constitution (see Article II of the US Constitution), however,

    the National Popular Vote compact would modify the outcome of our current system so that the candidate winning the overall (national) public vote would always win the majority of electoral college votes a so-called “end run” around the constitutional amendment process.

    It would accomplish this via an agreement (enshrined in state laws) among participating states to award their electoral college votes in accordance with the winner of the national popular vote (instead of the current system in 48 of the states, in which a states’votes are given to the winner of the popular vote in each state respectively.)

    The agreement will only go into effect if a sufficient number of states (meaning enough states to account for at least 270 electoral college votes) join the agreement.

    However, even if enough states join here is one potential obstacle; Article I, Section 10 of the US Constitution, which provides

    “”No State shall, without the Consent of Congress . . . enter into any Agreement or Compact with another State, or with a foreign Power.”

    The consent of Congress may be difficult to obtain, but there are a few cases decided by the US Supreme court that might overcome this potential obstacle.

    California has enacted the National Popular Vote act along with nine other states and DC.

  2. Changing the electoral college system would Not require an amendment to the Constitution.

    State laws for awarding electoral votes Can be changed, and a lot of people want them to be changed. 
    It is Likely to happen by 2020.

    California has enacted the National Popular Vote bill. 

    It would
    guarantee the presidency to the candidate who receives the most popular votes
    in the country, by changing state winner-take-all laws  (not mentioned
    in the U.S. Constitution, but later enacted by 48 states), without changing anything in the Constitution, using the built-in method that the Constitution provides for
    states to make changes.
    Every vote, everywhere, for
    every candidate, would be politically relevant and equal in every presidential
    No more distorting and divisive red and blue state maps of pre-determined
    No more handful of ‘battleground’ states (where the two major political parties
    happen to have similar levels of support among voters) where voters and
    policies are more important than those of the voters in 38+ predictable states, like California, that have just been ‘spectators’ and ignored after the conventions.
    The bill would take effect when enacted by states with a
    majority of the electoral votes—270 of 538. 

    All of the presidential
    electors from the enacting states will be supporters of the presidential
    candidate receiving the most popular votes in all 50 states (and DC)—thereby
    guaranteeing that candidate with an Electoral College majority.
    The bill was approved this
    year by a unanimous bipartisan House committee vote in both Georgia
    (16 electoral votes) and Missouri (10).
    The bill has passed 34 state legislative chambers in
    23 rural, small, medium, large, red, blue, and purple states with 261 electoral
    The bill has been enacted by 11 small, medium, and
    large jurisdictions with 165 electoral votes – 61% of the 270 necessary to go
    into effect.


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