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The Structure and Function of an Electoral College


Describe the structure and function of the electoral college.


How and when was it created in the U.S.?

Why was it created, and by whom?

  1. Compare the electoral college to a popular vote approach for elections.


How does the electoral college system operate/function?

What are consequences of using an electoral college system versus a popular vote? Use the 2000 and 2016 presidential elections as examples.

  1. Assess the value of an individual citizen’s vote under the electoral college system.


Why does the U.S. still use the electoral college for presidential elections today?






Subject Law and governance Pages 4 Style APA


The Electoral College is not a place, it is a process. An Electoral College comprises of 538 electors. Here, a majority of 270 electoral votes are required to elect a state’s President. A country’s entitled allotment of electors is equal to the number of Congressional delegation members: one for every member represented in the House of Representatives and two for Senators (Virgin, 2017). It was established by the founding fathers in the constitution as a compromise between presidential election by a vote in the Congress and presidential election by a popular vote of qualified citizens. The Electoral College process entails the selection of particular electors, their meeting of to vote for the President and his/her vice and summing up the total electoral votes by Congress to choose the winning candidate.

In 1804, the Electoral College was created and ratified during the 12th Amendment. Under the 23rd Constitutional Amendment, all state candidates running for presidency have their representative electors. Generally, these electors are selected by the political party of a candidate. The districts elect three electors and are treated like a state to participate in the Electoral College (Virgin, 2017). In United States, the electors who cast votes decide the president and the Vice of the United States. It was established by the founding fathers of the US Constitution as a compromise between Presidential election by a congress and the popular votes (Miller, 2012). The Electoral College was purposely created because the founding fathers were fearful of the direct election to the Presidency as they believed that a tyrant could manipulate public opinion and take power over the state.

In a political structure, the Electoral College is a republic representative while the popular votes exhibit direct democracy. While Citizens vote in accordance with their party affiliation or allegiances, votes convened by delegates and a winner of that specific vote elected for the position in question, the popular vote allows citizens to vote for officials of their choice (Sides, Tesler, & Vavreck, 2017). Here, votes are counted and whoever gains the majority takes up the position in picture. As opposed to Electoral College, the popular vote does not require formation of a committee. In Electoral College, it is a mandatory that the regional delegates run for specific representative locations within their districts either through parties or at an individual level (Miller, 2012). However, this is not a requirement in popular vote.

Nevertheless, there are consequences of using an Electoral College system versus a popular vote. In the event of a presidential election, the popular vote refers to an aggregate of citizen voters from all American based states. The presidential candidate who wins the highest number of votes nationwide is declared the winner of the popular vote. However, the winner of the popular vote can still end up losing the election, just as it was the case of Al Gore in 2000 and Hillary Clinton back in 2016 (Sides, Tesler, & Vavreck, 2017). Following the 2012 presidential election, Mitt Romney got 48% of the popular vote but only 38% of the electoral vote. This is mainly because though Americans directly cast their votes to select their preferable candidate during the presidential elections that come after four years, the president is elected by the Electoral College.

There is a disparity between the Electoral College and popular votes. The Electoral College system does not influence or give weight to every voter’s ballot over the outcome. As evidenced by Donald Trump’s victory, the Electoral College system puts weight to votes cast in different American states. An individual votes does not count much because the Electoral system weighs ballots especially in states with large populations weigh much less than those cast in small states (Godek, 2018). For instance, as noted by the Washington Post shortly after the election, Wyoming had a population of 586, 107 and three electoral votes, while California has 55 electoral votes with 39, 144, 818 residents. Evenly distributing the electoral vote among all residents in each state suggest that Wyoming’s individual votes weigh 3.6 times more, and are extra influential than those from California.

The US still uses the Electoral College for presidential elections today because it is fundamental to the American federalism. The American federalism requires all candidates to make an appeal to voters outside large and established cities, improves the political influence of small states, reduce the excessive growth of political parties, and while at the same time preserve the two-party system in United States (Godek, 2018). All these factors have made the Electoral College come out more legitimate as opposed to the nationwide popular vote.

In conclusion, the Electoral College is a process employed in US to elect the President and his/her vice. It comprises of 538 electors where a majority of 270 electoral votes are required to elect a state’s President. Currently, the US still uses the Electoral College for presidential elections today following the diverse benefits it brings to the political system of the US.



Godek, P. E. (2018). Determining State Preferences for the Electoral College: 1788-2016. Cato J., 38, 631.

Miller, N. R. (2012). Election inversions by the US Electoral College. In Electoral Systems (pp. 93-127). Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg.

Sides, J., Tesler, M., & Vavreck, L. (2017). The 2016 US election: How Trump lost and won. Journal of Democracy, 28(2), 34-44.

Virgin, S. G. (2017). Competing loyalties in electoral reform: An analysis of the US Electoral College. Electoral Studies, 49, 38-48.

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