What is the Electoral College? – A Beginner’s Guide for High Schoolers

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The Electoral College may feel overwhelming no matter your age, let’s be honest…politics in general might have you stressing. Here is a breakdown of what the Electoral College really is!

The Electoral College is made up of 538 electors. Each of these electors’ casts one vote after the general election; the candidate who receives 270 votes or more wins! Feeling more confused? Don’t worry! Let’s explain further.

What are the qualifications to be an elector?

The U.S. Constitution contains very few provisions relating to the qualifications of electors. Article II, section 1, clause 2 provides that no Senator, Representative, or Person holding an Office of Trust or Profit under the United States, shall be appointed an elector. As a historical matter, the 14th Amendment provides that State officials who have engaged in civil disobedience or rebellion against the United States or given aid and comfort to its enemies are disqualified from serving as electors. This prohibition relates to the post-Civil War era.

Who selects the electors?

Choosing each State's electors is a two-part process. First, the political parties in each State choose slates of potential electors sometime before the general election. Second, during the general election, the voters in each State select their State's electors by casting their ballots.

Why was the Electoral College created?

The Electoral College was created per the U.S. Constitution where American presidents are not directly voted by the general public but by the general public’s electors. The Electoral College was formed by the framers of the U.S. Constitution as an alternative way of electing the president by popular vote or by Congress. 

How is it determined how many votes each state has in the Electoral College?

Every State is owed a number of votes equal to the number of senators and representatives in its U.S. Congressional delegation—two votes for its senators in the U.S. Senate plus a number of votes equal to the number of its Congressional districts. Besides Maine and Nebraska- they award all of their electoral votes to the candidate that wins the state.

For example, for more of an understanding, South Dakota has one single congressional district and two senators: Mike Rounds and John Thune. So that makes up three votes for South Dakota in the Electoral College.

Purpose and importance of the Electoral College?

The purpose of the Electoral College is to elect a president and a vice president for the United States. Although this does not appear in the U.S Constitution, this is how our the voting process works: instead of counting 332,403,650 votes from every resident in each state of all the fifty states which would take too long, they count the votes from each elector in the Electoral College which is made up of 538 electors. Once a candidate has received 270 votes or more they win the election!

Electoral College vs popular vote?

Lastly, Electoral College vs popular vote, what’s the difference? The difference is electoral voting is tied to a state's popular vote. The candidate with the most popular votes in a state or in a few states receives its electoral votes. The tally of each individual's vote within a given geographic area.

To learn more visit https://www.usa.gov/election

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