Every government has a system in place to effectively chose a leader. This system for the United States is described as the Electoral College. Composed by the Founding Fathers, the process provides a modus operandi of election. The Electoral College allows smaller states to have a say and was created to prevent political manipulation. It has been the electoral system for the United States for over 200 years.
In 1787, towards the end of the Constitutional Convention, the electoral college was proposed by the Committee on Unfinished Parts. There have been a variety of motives for adapting the Electoral College suggested by historians. Some believe it was the concerns regarding the balance between large and small states, separation of powers, and the relationship between the branches of government. “The original purpose of the Electoral College was to reconcile differing state and federal interests, provide a degree of popular participation in the election, give the less populous states some additional leverage in the process by providing ‘senatorial’ electors, preserve the presidency as independent of Congress and generally insulate the election process from political manipulation” (Electoral College, 2010). They were attempting to create a method of election in which the population is fairly included and protected from political deception. The delegates universally approved this plan and it made its way into the Constitution. The process ultimately met with a favorable initial reaction by the public.
Every election year, candidates for elector are nominated by political parties in each state. Instead of voting for the presidential and vice presidential nominees, it’s these individuals for whom citizens vote for in November. Voters will then cast a vote for the electors pledged to the presidential and vice presidential candidates of their party or choice. Then, the slate with the largest amount of popular votes is elected. This winner-take-all system is also known as the general ticket system. Roughly a month later, electors assemble in their corresponding states. They are each pledged to a party or candidate, and are expected to vote for the candidates in which they represent. However, they are not required. Separate ballots are then cast for President and Vice President by these electors, and the electoral college dissolves until it’s needed again in the following election. On January 6th of the year after the election, a joint session of Congress is held where the electoral votes are added up and verified. In order to win, a presidential candidate requires a majority of votes. Currently, the majority needed is 270 out of 538. Each state has a certain number of electoral votes based on its population. For instance, Texas and Florida are both largely populated states and therefore have a larger number of electoral votes.
But what is its purpose? The Electoral College serves as a buffer between the President and the population. Many people are divided on the principals of the system. “Many who favor the system maintain that it provides presidents with a special federative majority and a broad national mandate for governing, unifying the two major parties across the country and requiring broad geographic support to win the presidency” (Wayne, 2019). Meaning the Electoral College unites the two parties through a president with broad geographic support. They may also argue it gives a voice to smaller states and less populated areas. Those who oppose however, may argue that the system is outdated and undesirable due to the potential for an undemocratic outcome, where the winner of the electoral vote is not the winner of the popular vote. Opponents also argue it affects voter turnout in party-dominant states, elicits bias against independent or third-party candidates, and the chance of a faithless elector. Today, the Electoral College is simply the system in place by which the President and Vice President of the United States are selected by the formal body.
To conclude, the Electoral College is the United States’ method of electing our leaders. Created by the Founding Fathers and ratified in 1804, this has been the electoral system for over 200 years. As the middleman between the President and the people, its job is to simplify the presidential vote by requiring the people to vote for electors, who then vote for President and Vice President. Some believe the Electoral College is a just and fair system, while others believe it’s unfair and can lead to undemocratic outcomes. Whatever the case may be, the most important thing to remember is to vote.