Electoral College determines next U.S. President, but how?

Maya Brisan, Staff Writer

The presidential election is coming up in November, and there are many factors in the election process. One of those parts is the Electoral College. The Electoral College is a topic that many people don’t know much about and, because of this, many adults do not know its purpose or why it exists.

The New York Times explained in a recent article that the purpose of the Electoral College is to be the final voice in determining the new president. The word “college” in this case refers to an organized group working together. 

“They meet (usually in December) to formally cast their votes, reflecting the outcome of how their state voted back in the general election—in this case on Nov. 3, 2020,” Tualatin High School history and government teacher Kevin McManamon said. 

According to the US Embassy and Consulates of the United Kingdom, the Electoral College was created when the Constitution was made in 1787. It was designed to replace elections by popular vote or Congress and its purpose was to balance the interests of high-population and low-population states.

“Each state legislature determines how electors are chosen, but typically they are appointed by the parties. If a Democrat wins a state, then it will be the Democratic electors that are sent,” Tualatin High School history and government teacher Tryon Thompson explained.

States and Washington, D.C. automatically get three electoral votes. 

“Each state has electors equal to its representatives plus senators,” Thompson said. “There are currently 100 senators and 435 representatives, plus Washington, D.C. gets a number the same as if it were a state, so there are 538 electors. To win, a candidate must get 270 plus.” 

According to Britannica, the states with the most votes are California (55 votes), Texas (38), Florida (29) and New York (29). Oregon has seven electoral votes. 

People are starting to wonder whether the Electoral College actually represents what the majority wants. Most recently, in 2016, President Donald Trump lost the popular vote, but won the Electoral College, making him president. The first U.S. president with the same results was John Quincy Adams in 1824. He was followed by Rutherford B. Hayes in 1876, Benjamin Harris in 1888 and George W. Bush in 2000. This discrepancy has caused people to question whether the Electoral College actually speaks for the people and if it’s fair.

In most states, the winner of the state gets all of their electoral votes. The two exceptions are Maine and Nebraska, which divide up the votes. Two votes go to the winner of the popular vote, and the rest of the votes are given to the winner of the votes in each of the states’ congressional districts. Maine has two congressional districts and Nebraska has three.

“[I]n most states the winner of that state receives all of the electors for that state. For example, if Biden wins Oregon 51 percent to 49 percent, he will get all seven of our state’s electors,” Thompson concluded.