Many of us have differing viewpoints on politics, but we all should agree on the meticulous process. There are many facets to the election process that many Americans are not even aware occur. These details make it a bit more complicated than just winning a popular vote. Understanding your vote and how it is processed is a very important part of the process.
Election day was designated as the first Tuesday in November back in 1845. This time period was selected because it was after the harvest and before weather became too bad to get out and vote.
Why the Electoral College?
The electoral college was developed to keep Congress from having too much power and from allowing too much power to big cities that got communication faster than the rural areas. The thought was to spread the authority to all states, so that everyone’s votes would matter. Each state gets 2 electoral college votes for their Senators and then one vote for each of their House of Representatives. The House of Representatives numbers for each state will shift every 10 years, based on the population determined by the U.S. Census.
How the Electoral College Works
When you vote in primary and county elections, the person with the highest vote, known as the popular vote, wins. However, in a National election, the electoral college decides the fate of the President/Vice President. Each state is given a group of electors and these electors cast their votes for the presidential and vice-presidential candidates. In 48 of the states, the electors pledge to give their votes to the candidate that receives the most votes in their state. However, Maine and Nebraska are a bit different. Two of the electors’ pledge to give their vote to the candidate that receives the most votes and the third elector pledges to vote for the candidate that wins the most Congressional districts in the state. There are 535 electors for the 50 states and 3 extras for the District of Columbia, making the total number to 538. This is why 270 electoral votes are needed to win, regardless of the popular vote. The electors meet on the first Monday after the second Wednesday in December. Congress then meets on January 6th, and the vice-president counts the votes and announces the new President/Vice-President officially. The new president takes office on January 20th, which is also known as Inauguration Day.
One of the issues with the electoral college is that some states do not have a law mandating that the electors vote according to the state. There is also no federal law stating they must do this. Therefore, a faithless elector situation can arise where they pick the candidate, they would like to see win it. There has never been a presidential election where a faithless elector situation caused the other candidate to be elected. However, if there is an event where a tie occurs, the House will step in and decide the presidential winner and the Senate will decide the vice-president.