The Electoral College

Maria Rodriguez-McKey

Map of the 2016 U.S. presidential election projections:[1]

  • In red: 304 Trump electors from 30 states + ¼ ME (2nd CD)
  • In blue: 227 Clinton electors from 19 states + ¾ ME and C.

Elections are complex and their intricacies are not well-known.  That is why university research should take place in as many democracies as possible.

Political science should look into the history of elections, which in some areas of the world have been the way to gpvern States for a while, and by using examples of the past and the present try to understand why instituions resulting from those elections have at times brought war instead of peace.  Serious mistakes are still being made when devising electoral systems and election procedures so we see the importance of doing research on those issues.

With the post Arab spring Egyptian political system in mind, we will explain the approach that the Americans took more than 240 years ago when they created their own presidential system.  Our Amercian friends have had firstly, the Articles of the Confederation (1776-1777) which failed to give an effective institutional framework  so that a new constitution this time federal is still (the Federal Constitution,1886-1887).

And what about the Electoral College system?  The early Americans did not trust democracy. For many it meant mob-rule. So the American Founding Fathers decided to put a « filter » the people and government, in other words the Electoral College.  At the time the electors of the Electoral College were probably individuals who were well known in their respective States.  In other words, the Electoral College represents the 50 States of the Union because in the American Federal system it is the States that vote for the President.

As regards Congressional elections, the House Representatives are elected by a system that is very proportional to the population of Each State as is that of the Electoral College.  The formula used at the begining was the French Andeé Saint-Lagüe’s system but because of its uneven negative effects the United States devised its own system. For the Senate the method was simple: Each State is represented equally by two Senators.

Are there restrictions on who the Electors can vote for?

Restrictions exist as to who can be selected as Presidential elector.  For example, no senators, representatives or persons holding an office of trust.  The National Association of Secretaries of State (NASS) compiles a list of applicable State laws but vary.

« No Elector has ever been prosecuted for failing to vote as pledged. … Today, it is rare for Electors to disregard the popular vote by casting their electoral vote for someone other than their party’s candidate. Electors generally hold a leadership position in their party or were chosen to recognize years of loyal service to the party. » …Throughout the history of the United States more than 99 percent of Electors have voted as pledged. (National Archives, What are the qualifications to be an Elector?)

  • Cartogram showing 2016 Electoral College projections. Each square represents one elector.