The Electoral College

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  • The Electoral College
    • What is it?
      • It was set up by the Founding Fathers to choose the President who is not elected directly by the people
      • Each state has a number of 'Electoral College votes'
        • Its number of Representatives in the HoR + 2 for its Senators
      • The number is based on the states representation in Congress
        • California has 55 as it is the most populous state (53+2)
        • Wyoming and Vermont have only 3 (1 Rep and 2 Senators)
      • This means it has a number roughly based on its population
      • In nearly every state there is a winner takes all rule
        • Exceptions in Maine and Nebraska
        • In 2012 Obama got 50% of the vote in Florida and Romney got 49% so Obama won
      • The College never actually meet as a body and votes are cast in each state capitol on the Monday after the second Wednesday in December and then sent to Washington to be counted by the Vice President who then announces the result to congress in January
      • In most cases the result is already known in November and this is just a formality
    • To Win?
      • There are 538 Electoral College votes so to win you need 270.
        • In 2012 Obama got 332 and Romney got 206
      • There could be a dead heat with 269 college votes each or a 3rd candidate could end one man or women a majority - and if this happens the HoR would vote for the president
        • This has not happened since 1824 although it came close in 2000 when Bush got 271 and Gore got 266
    • Advantages
      • It gives the smaller states more say
        • Smaller states still get a minimum of 2 senators and 1 representative
      • It makes it a 2 party battle
        • Winner takes all rule makes it hard for a 3rd candidate to get any EC votes which tends to make it a contest between candidates of the two main parties and so one of them is more likely to get 50% of the vote and claim to be the majority choice like Obama in 2012
    • Disadvantages
      • A deadlock could lead to the President and VP coming from different parties
        • The HoR choose the President and the Senate choose the VP
      • The problem of rogue Electors
        • In 2004 the state of Minnesota voted for the Democrat John Kerry but one of the Electors voted for a rival John Edwards instead
      • Ir punishes 3rd candidates
        • In 1992 Ross Perot stood and won nearly 19% of the votes and yet because his vote was spread in many states he got no EC votes
      • The candidate who gets most popular votes among the people can still lose
        • In 2000 Al Gore got 48.4% of the vote and George Bush got 48% but because his vote was in the right states Bush got 271 EC votes and Gore got 266
      • The winner takes all rule distorts the outcome
        • FPTP makes the result disproportional
      • Smaller states get a disproportionate say
        • It is unfair that the smaller states should exert such an influence
          • California has 55 EC votes with a pop. of 37 million but Vermont has 3 EC votes with a pop of 626,000
    • Reforms
      • Using Congressional Districts
        • States divided into Congressional Districts and if a candidate wins in them they gets their EC vote and the 2 top up Senate votes are given to the candidate who wins state wide
          • In 2008 Nebraska split its 5 EC votes giving 4 to McCain and 1 to Obama
      • Using a proportional voting system
        • They could make the EC votes proportional to the popular vote in each state
          • In 2012 in Florida Obama got 50% of the vote and Romney got 49% but Obama won all 29 EC votes but under this system Obama would only have got one more vote than Romney 15-14
      • Directly electing the President
        • This would simply abolish the EC altogether and replace it with directly elected Presidents

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