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Sal teaches Grover about the electoral college

Sal helps our favorite Sesame Street character understand how we elect the president of the United States. Check out more lessons about American civics on Khan Academy at http://www.khanacademy.org. And vote November 3 if you’re eligible!

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  • blobby green style avatar for user rodrigo.ipince
    Wait, do you actually need more than half of the electoral votes? What if there are more than 2 candidates? Of the 538, can't you have A win 200, B win 188, and C win 150, and have A win with fewer than 270 votes?
    (16 votes)
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    • leafers tree style avatar for user Adrian V.
      What happens if no presidential candidate gets 270 Electoral votes?

      If no candidate receives a majority of Electoral votes, the House of Representatives elects the President from the 3 Presidential candidates who received the most Electoral votes. Each state delegation has one vote. The Senate would elect the Vice President from the 2 Vice Presidential candidates with the most Electoral votes. Each Senator would cast one vote for Vice President. If the House of Representatives fails to elect a President by Inauguration Day, the Vice-President Elect serves as acting President until the deadlock is resolved in the House.

      source: https://www.archives.gov/federal-register/electoral-college/faq.html#no270
      (17 votes)
  • blobby green style avatar for user Kyle Berthiaume
    So... I was pretty sure our founding fathers put together a Republic... where exactly did "indirect democracy" come from?
    (8 votes)
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  • hopper cool style avatar for user Jett Burns
    Can a candidate win less than 25 of the 50 states and still become president? Is this possible with the electoral vote system?
    (5 votes)
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  • female robot amelia style avatar for user Phil Adams
    The problem with the system we have is that one candidate or another will collect that magic number of 270 electoral votes early on with our modern system of communication that never existed back when the Founding Fathers created the United States so why would people living in states far out West even bother to vote since the election would be "over" before their polls even close?
    (2 votes)
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  • piceratops ultimate style avatar for user Kyle Crop
    At Sal says "in most states" the candidate who receives the majority of the popular votes receives all of the electoral votes in that state. What does he mean by "in most states"?
    (1 vote)
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  • piceratops seed style avatar for user wildog432
    What about south and north Dakota do they count as 1 for the college or 2 states
    (1 vote)
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  • winston baby style avatar for user J.R Kobert
    what about smaller states like Iowa? Would they only have 6 senators and representatives counting electoral votes? And how many people does the state need to have 6 electoral votes on each party?
    (2 votes)
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    • piceratops ultimate style avatar for user Homeskool99
      6 on each party, so 12 total, correct? Well, since each state has 2 U.S. Senators, to get to 12 total electoral votes a state would need to have 10 U.S. representatives.

      BUT! A quick search online tells me that Iowa has 6 electoral votes. Thus, Iowa has 2 U.S. Senators and 4 U.S. Representatives. So yes, you're exactly right.
      (1 vote)
  • female robot ada style avatar for user hallett.laylay
    If you lose an election then will you be able to run again? If not then why would you not be allowed to run again?
    (1 vote)
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    • piceratops ultimate style avatar for user Kim Kutz Elliott
      There's no restriction on running for president a second time if you lose! Several individuals ran for president unsuccessfully more than once in their lifetimes, such as the nineteenth-century politician Henry Clay (whom Abraham Lincoln greatly admired as a young man). One more recent example is Richard Nixon, who lost to John F. Kennedy in the election of 1960, but won the presidency in the election of 1968.

      Although there are no official restrictions, the major political parties may not feel it is a good bet to run a candidate who has lost in a previous election. The Democratic or Republican Party may believe that a candidate who lost a presidential election does not have enough popular support to win the presidency in another contest, and choose another candidate.
      (3 votes)
  • blobby green style avatar for user Michael Zerbib
    The video says that the number of of electors each State has corresponds to the number of senators and congressmen each state has. But how is this number decided? Why 55 for California, 29 for Florida?. Does this number fluctuates based on population increase or decrease or is it a fixed number?
    (1 vote)
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    • starky ultimate style avatar for user SpencerGlove
      it is loosely tied to population. California has 53 congressmen/women. Each state has 2 senators. thus they have 55 electoral votes. The congressional districts (which decide how many congressmen/women a state receives) is updated per the most recent Census. The Census is issues once every ten years. Does that help address your question?
      (2 votes)
  • blobby green style avatar for user Anne Nap
    (1 vote)
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    • orange juice squid orange style avatar for user Sita
      The reason we have electors dates back to the 1700s. The Founding Fathers didn’t really want the US to be a democracy. So they didn’t support the idea of using a popular vote to decide the president. Their initial ideas included letting Congress decide (too much power) and state governors decide (not enough separation between federal and state). John Wilson, one of the Founding Fathers, was inspired by Scotland’s indirect democracy, where elected “commissioners” designate representatives to their parliament. Having state-designated electors voting the president also solves the issue of having "uneducated" voters. Alexander Hamilton wrote that “A small number of persons, selected by their fellow-citizens from the general mass, will be most likely to possess the information and discernment requisite to such complicated investigations.” The idea was that electors would be knowledgeable and in case the votes were going towards an unfavorable candidate, they would be able to change the direction. This system doesn’t seem very fair because when it was designed, the US did not have a two-party system.

      As the video detailed, each state got the number of electors based on how many members of Congress it had. This adds up to 535, and when we add 3 for Washington D.C., we get to 538. In our current two-party system, electors are designated based on how citizens vote (i.e. if California is voted blue, all 55 electors for that state will be Democrats). While electors are supposed to vote according to the state’s population’s choice, some don’t. These are called faithless electors, and historically, faithless electors have not changed the outcome of the election. Chiafalo v. Washington, decided early this year (2020) by the Supreme Court, states that states are allowed to hold electors to their pledges, i.e. punish faithless electors with fines and imprisonment. So far, 32 states have such rules in place. As I’m writing this, the election results are coming in for the 2020 election. These election results are not final though, because whichever candidate is voted by electors becomes president. If any details are incorrect or missing, please let me know.
      (2 votes)

Video transcript

- Vote for me. Vote for cute and adorable Grover. I am pro-ABCs and for one, two, threes. Plus I promise I have no skeletons in my closet. I do not even have one in my body. - Hey, Grover, what are you doing? - Oh, hello there, Sal Khan. I am just running for president of the United States of America. I heard there was an upcoming election, so I figured, ah, why not? - Well, that's great, Grover. - Yeah! - Maybe we can help more people vote. - Oh, that would be terrific. So exactly how many votes do I need to win? - Well, you know about the electoral college, right? - Of course, Sal, baby. - I know exactly what the electrical-- - Electoral. - Electoral college is. - Great, so why don't we explain it together for those who don't know? - Oh, why certainly. What a brilliant idea. - Umm. Why don't you start us off? - Sure. In a direct democracy, I as a citizen will vote for a candidate. And whichever candidate has the most popular votes in the country, they will become president. But we do not have a direct democracy. We have an indirect democracy. So what happens is, is I vote in my state. I live in California. And whichever candidate gets the most votes in California will get all of California's 55 electoral votes. And that's true in most states. Whoever gets the most votes in that state gets all of the votes for that state. And that number comes from the number of Congresspeople California has. - Um, dah, I am not following you. - So how can I explain it in a way that you might understand? - Chickens. (chickens clucking) I know chickens. Chickens, they are my biggest demo. (chickens clucking) - OK, chickens. So instead of electors, we'll say chickens. Instead of the electoral college, I'll say chicken college. - OK, that I can follow. - OK. The number of chicken votes for each state is equal to the number of Congresspeople for that state. - [Grover] In every state? (chicken clucks) - [Sal] Yes, Grover. - From California to the New York island? From the redwood forest to the Gulf Stream waters. - Yes. The 50 states. (Grover laughs) And so there are a total of 538 chicken votes in the chicken college. For example, Florida has 29 chicken votes. (chicken clucks) And that's the same as the 29 Congresspeople that they have, two senators and 27 representatives. - [Grover] Oh, hello there, chickens. (chickens clucking) OK, then, so how do I, candidate Grover, win the presidency? - Well, since there are 538 chicken votes in total, you just have to get more than half of those. - More than half. Hmm, let me see here. (trumpets play line from "Stars and Stripes Forever") One, carry the two, divided by eight. - Grover, we, we know the actual number. You just have to get at least 270 chicken votes in the chicken college. - Just 270 chickens? I could do that. 300 chickens just crossed the road to hear me speak at the rally. (chickens clucking) - Oh, great, do you have your speech? - Oh, yeah, it's just right here, yeah. Where did I put it, it? Ah, I'll just wing it. Bye, Sal. - Bye, Grover. Now get out there and vote. (chickens cluck) (violins play "Hail to the Chief")