The Electoral College is the system in which the President of the United States is elected.The simplest explanation of the Electoral College is that each state gets a certain number of electoral votes, the candidate getting a majority of the state's popular vote winning that state's votes, and the one getting the most electoral votes winning the election. As the system doesn't use popular vote as is, a large portion of people's votes go to waste.
The Electoral College is a broken system. there are a number of reasons for this, but the biggest are that it allows the loser of the popular vote to win the election, puts all the campaign focus on a few swing states like Ohio, and gives some states more or less votes than they should, so not all votes are counted equally. The biggest problem with the electoral college, however, is that it allowed George W. Bush to become president, which would not have happened under a straight popular vote, as Al Gore actually got more votes, see 2000 U.S. Presidential Election.
How It WorksEdit
All states have a certain amount of Congressional Districts based on their population, with each Congressional District representing one electoral vote. Every state MUST have at least one Congressional District. Every state, regardless of size and population, has exactly two senators, with each senator representing an electoral vote. Therefore, every state gets at least 3 electoral votes. Washington D.C. does not have any senators, but still has 3 electoral votes. California has the most electoral votes, with 55. The total amount of electoral votes added up is 538. 48 of the 50 states in the union use a winner-take-all method, where the candidate with the most votes in the state combined captures all of the electoral votes. Every ten years, the U.S. Census is updated, along with the electoral college. The electoral college was last updated in 2011 and will be given its next update in 2021.
The remaining two (Maine and Nebraska), however, award electoral votes based on who wins congressional districts. Maine has two congressional districts, plus two senators giving them 4 electoral votes. Nebraska has three Congressional Districts plus the two senators, giving them 5 electoral votes. The statewide winner wins two electoral votes (the ones representing the senate) in both Maine and Nebraska. The remaining electoral votes are decided on who wins each Congressional District.
In 2008, Barack Obama won Nebraska's 2nd Congressional District, while McCain won the 1st and 3rd. Obama was ultimately awarded 1 electoral vote in Nebraska due to his 2nd CD victory, while McCain was awarded 4 electoral votes for winning the statewide vote and the other 2 CDs. In 2016, Donald Trump won Maine's 2nd Congressional District, but Clinton won the statewide vote along with the 1st Congressional District. Trump was ultimately awarded 1 electoral vote for his 2nd Congressional District victory, while Clinton was awarded 3 electoral votes for winning the statewide vote and the 1st Congressional District.
The first candidate to reach 270 electoral votes, the minimal majority, wins the election!
What if Nobody Reaches 270? Edit
But what if the electoral college is tied with both at 269 electoral votes? Also, what if nobody gets to 270 due to third-party intervention?
Pretend that the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election was altered, with Florida, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin voting for Hillary Clinton; Colorado and Virginia voting for Donald Trump; New Mexico voting Gary Johnson, and with no Faithless Electors. In this case, nobody wins the election immediately, as Trump only gets 269, Hillary gets 264, and Johnson gets 5. Alternatively, if New Mexico still voted for Hillary Clinton, it would be a 269-269 tie. This scenario is under the assumption that Maine still splits their vote, with 3 for Clinton and 1 for Trump.
For experimenting with this scenario or to use for referencing, use the 2016 Presidential Election Interactive Map. For other possible tying scenarios see Electoral College Tie Combination. This does not include options for New Mexico, Minnesota or Maine-Statewide.
Although no Presidential Election has ever ended in a tie, or with no candidates reaching the required number, there is a tie-breaking procedure to determine the winner.
After the electoral meeting (mid-December) if the election is still tied at 269 or if nobody gets to 270 due to third-party intervention, the House of Representatives and the Senate determine the winner. The 435 (538 minus 100 Senators minus 3 more from Washington D.C.) H.O.R. members cast their votes choosing from the three candidates with the most electoral votes, while the 100 senate members cast their votes from the two vice-presidential candidates with the most electoral votes represented. So technically, Tim Kaine could have ended up as Donald Trump's VP or even Mike Pence being Hillary Clinton's VP. Whoever gets the majority out of the 435 H.O.R. votes become president.
However, if that also ends up in a tie, the currently-sitting Vice President (in this case it would've been Joe Biden) would be the tie-breaking vote, finally putting an end to this mess.
For more on electoral ties: visit The Not-Quite-So-Impossible 269-269 Tie Scenario on nationalreview.com
So Why Does It Even Exist?Edit
Originally the Electoral College was created because news traveled so slowly, the best system was just have each state send delegates to Washington D.C. to decide the next president. But now, votes can be counted in a day and this clearly isn't an issue. Because news traveled so slowly, the founding fathers were worried that most people wouldn't have access to enough information to make an educated decision. Although that was originally a legitimate fear; nowadays, thanks to the internet, this excuse is no longer so valid.
Another Liberal Perspective Edit
Many of the Founding Fathers, understood the problems which could occur under a truly democratic system of Government. They took pains to limit the power of the Federal Government, and ensure that no one region of the country would be able to control the Government even if that region had a Majority of the population. The electoral college empowers each state, regardless of it's population. Each state is guaranteed representation within each body of the Legislature, and representation in the electoral college. In our system of government, the executive branch is the only elected part of government that serves the entire nation, and the extraordinary limitations imposed by the electoral college help ensure that the executive will represent not only the majority of the population, but also the majority of the geographic area of the country. The electoral college helps ensure that the executive will have to represent more than just the interests of a few states or a single region. Yes it limits democracy, but our system accepts limits on democracy which ensure the rights of states, and individuals.