Electoral College Explained

3rd of November was the D-Day for Joe Biden and Donald Trump, two presidential nominees for the 59th quadrennial United States presidential election. After 19 months of campaigning and travelling all across the country, Joe Biden, former US Senator from Delaware and former Vice President, faced Donald Trump, incumbent President of the United States in collecting 270 electoral votes to attain, or retain the role of the President.

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Electoral votes and how they work

Most presidential elections around the world use the two-party system as their voting method, where nominees have to get the majority of votes in one or two rounds of voting. On the other hand, the United States use the electoral college system, a method which confuses and baffles most non-Americans, and even some Americans, of how the system works. Both the Democratic and Republican parties have tried to remove the electoral college and the majority of Americans, around 61% of them, support replacing it. So what is the electoral college, and how does it work? The general definition of an electoral college is a set of electors who are selected to elect a candidate to particular offices, which in no way explains the complexity and intricacies of electoral voting.

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Electors and “faithless electors”

First off, let’s start with explaining who the electors are. Electors are members of the Electoral College, who cast ballots to elect the president of the United States and vice president of the United States. Currently, there are 548 electors, composed of 435 representatives from the House of Representatives, 100 senators from the fifty states and three electors from Washington D.C.  U.S voters actually don’t elect the president directly, but they choose presidential electors who pledge to elect the electoral vote for the candidate whom they give support. This creates an issue of a “faithless elector”, an elector who does not cast an electoral vote for the candidate of the party for whom that elector pledged to vote. 33 states plus the District of Columbia have laws against faithless electors, which were enforced after the 2016 election, when 10 electors voted or attempted to vote contrary to their pledges.

Unequal voting power

The number of Representatives in the House of Representatives is based on populations of states, so the average representative represents 710,000 US citizens, but every state has a right of having two senators in the Senate. This creates an inequality where, for example, an elector from Wyoming on average represents about 180,000 individuals, while an elector from Texas represents on average about 720,000 individuals. This means that an individual vote in the state of Wyoming could mean more that an individual vote in the state of Texas. On the other hand, this gives power to the smaller states, so it prevents politicians to focus only on issues which affect larger states. The candidate that gets the most electoral votes in a state, gets all the electoral votes of that state. If a candidate wins a state by only one percent, they get hundred percent of the electoral votes of that state. The unequal voting power also creates an issue where the nominee can win the popular vote, but lose the electoral college and lose the elections. This situation happened four times, most recently in 2016, when Hillary Clinton got the popular vote, but lost the electoral college to Donald Trump. This is also where the term “swing states” comes into play.

“Swing states”

If we look at the focus on touring and campaigning in the elections of 2020, presidential nominees have visited the states of Pennsylvania, Florida, and Ohio significantly more than the states of California, New York, and Texas. This is because the states Pennsylvania, Florida and Ohio are known as swing states, states that could reasonably be won by either the Democratic or Republican presidential candidate by a “swing” in votes. States of California, New York and Texas are considered “safe” states for a particular party (California and New York for Democratic, Texas for Republican), so the nominees spend less time and money campaigning in those states. 

Projected winner

On December 14, electors are going to meet in their state capitals and cast electoral votes for the president and the vice president. The 117th United States Congress is scheduled to meet on January 6, 2021. At that meeting they’re going to count electoral votes and officially declare the winner of the 2020 US presidential elections. Joe Biden is projected to win the electoral vote and the popular vote, with Biden taking 306 (as of 10 December) electoral votes and a bit more than 81 million votes respectively. The inauguration of Joe Biden is scheduled for Wednesday, January 20, 2021, on the West Front of the United States Capitol Building in Washington, D.C. The inauguration of the 46th president of the United States will finally mark the commencement of the four-year term of Joe Biden as the President and Kamala Harris as the Vice President of the United States of America.

Written by Marko Daraboš

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