In honor of Election Day, I’m presenting a quick review about the entity that will actually decide who’s in the White House through 2025.
You will hear a lot about a certain body of electors over the next few weeks. But is this body known as the Electorial College or the Electoral College?
To me, one sounds much more correct than the other when I see them side by side. Unfortunately for me, the one that sounds more correct isn’t.
If you look up the two words, you’ll see that Electoral is an adjective that can either refer to “an elector” or “an election.” If, on the other hand, you look up “electorial,” it simply refers you back to Electoral.
Well, that should clear up any confusion. It’s the Electoral College, no matter how much better “electorial college” might sound to some of us.
Here’s why they matter.
The Electoral College will meet in January (presumably) to formally elect the next president and vice president of the United States. Their electors will either cast a vote for President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, giving them their second term in office; or for former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Kamala Harris.
Each state gets a certain number of electoral votes. Each electoral vote will be cast by an elector.
All 50 states get an elector for every representative they have in Congress. Since each state has two senators and at least one representative, all states get a minimum of three electoral votes. The District of Columbia also gets three.
The number of representatives a state receives is based on its population. California has a total of 55 electoral votes, the most of any state. Texas has the second-highest number at 38. Florida and New York each get 29. My state of South Carolina gets nine.
Electors vote based on the popular vote of the state they represent. In a handful of cases, electoral votes can be split in the same state between candidates, depending on the popular vote winner geographically. But in most cases, the candidates winning that state’s popular vote get all of that state’s electoral votes.
We start off with the grand total of electoral votes available: 538.
To win the presidency, a candidate must claim at least 270, or 50.1% of that total number of votes.
Why not just go with the popular vote?
I mentioned this back in 2016, but it’s worth a review. I referred back then to a 2016 USA Today article on the Electoral College’s origins. In a nutshell, our Founding Fathers feared “the tyranny of majority.” By creating the Electoral College, they helped ensure that candidates must win more than just the most populous states. Therefore, smaller, but still-important states, get the attention of candidates. It forces the candidates to campaign in more states than just the “big” ones.
While one can easily argue it doesn’t make a candidate care more about people in smaller states, they still have to value them enough to maintain some kind of presence in states they might otherwise ignore.
Ironically, Trump called the Electoral College a “disaster” back in 2012.
He was not singing that same tune in 2016, when Hillary Clinton won the total popular vote, but Trump won the presidency when the Electoral College vote — based on popular vote totals by state — gave him the needed number to win.
But that’s how politics works, right?
In any case, the man elected to the presidency in 2020 will be decided by your vote…but will be confirmed by the Electoral College.