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Constitutional compromises: The Electoral College

AP.GOPO:
CON‑1.C.1 (EK)
AP.USH:
KC‑3.2.II.D (KC)
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PCE (Theme)
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Unit 3: Learning Objective I
In order to ratify the Constitution, the delegates made several compromises, including the system for electing the president.

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  • aqualine ultimate style avatar for user Cherub
    Why does California have such a disproportionately large number of votes compared to the other states?
    (2 votes)
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    • piceratops ultimate style avatar for user Kim Kutz Elliott
      From the author:It's proportionate, not disproportionate! The number of votes a state gets in the Electoral College is based on population. California is the most populous state by far, with about 40 million people. Texas has about 30 million people, and Florida about 20 million. Wyoming is the least populous state at just about half a million.
      (12 votes)
  • leaf red style avatar for user Naoya Okamoto
    Today, what effect does the Electoral College have on the outcome of the presidential election, considering that most electors will vote in the same way that the people of the state that they are representing voted in? How would this differ from the voting patterns of the state?
    (2 votes)
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    • boggle blue style avatar for user Davin V Jones
      States with smaller populations have a disproportionate share of electors in relation to the voting population (each elector represents a smaller number of voters), giving those votes more 'weight' than those of voters residing in larger population states.

      Also, the electoral delegates of most states do not vote as a representation of the outcome of how the voting population votes, rather it is a winner take all system. So, if a candidate beat their opponent in some state by just one vote and that state has say 7 electoral votes, all 7 of those electoral votes now go to that candidate rather than 4 for the candidate and 3 for the opponent.
      (7 votes)
  • starky tree style avatar for user ∞∞ø∆®™
    Why is there an Electoral College with population as its vote? Wouldn’t that make it less equal, like the case of Hillary Clinton vs. Donald Trump. Hillary got popular but Trump won
    (2 votes)
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    • leaf yellow style avatar for user SP
      Alas, it was back in the good ole 1780s when basically the founding fathers did not trust the people of America to vote for the right people, so they had people vote for electors to vote for the president instead of them actually directly voting for the president. They just assumed that people would not be educated enough on the candidates. I suspect that they did not think this far into the future.

      Yes, it definitely devalues the popular vote (you can win with just 23% of people voting for you) but I suppose it adds a bit more of a strategy to politics, adding more interest... (I'm grasping at straws right now, it is totally stupid)

      This is definitely a major issue in politics right now. In the last 200 years, over 700 attempts have been made to abolish it, but none have passed (yet).
      (4 votes)
  • blobby green style avatar for user Mary Garcia
    what happens if theres no electoral college?
    (2 votes)
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    • leaf yellow style avatar for user Light Runner
      Hey Mary!

      If there was no electoral college, voting would be only based on votes. This would mean none of the smaller states would have much of a say in the way who becomes president. For example, if you add up everyone who lives in Arkansas, Mississippi, Nevada, Iowa, Utah, Connecticut, Oklahoma, Kansas, New Mexico, and Nebraska. It's around 30 million people. Yet, there's nearly 40 million people in the state of California alone. Which would give the citizens of California a HUGE advantage when it comes to voting and who wins elections. But, with the electoral college set in place, every state has a say in how votes are counted, no matter how many people are in that state.

      Hope this helps!
      (3 votes)
  • male robot johnny style avatar for user Stephanie  Almond
    Give a downvote if this is useless.
    (3 votes)
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  • blobby green style avatar for user Dr zahoor
    Why have there been relatively few constitutional amendments?
    (1 vote)
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    • piceratops ultimate style avatar for user Hecretary Bird
      One of the main reasons is that the amendment process is hard to carry out, requiring an intense majority. Amending the constitution is also only reserved for really significant policy changes, which don't come up too often. Lastly, the constitution doesn't really have to keep up with the times as much as you may think, because a lot of the lawmaking happens at the state level. State constitutions are much, much easier to amend, and are longer and more detailed than the US Constitution. Does this answer the question alright?
      (4 votes)
  • marcimus orange style avatar for user LillianMcGreevy
    In the video, it says "Then that state would have electors equal to the number of senators and representatives." Who are the electors, are they average citizens? And if so, how are they chosen? Could anyone become an Elector?
    (2 votes)
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  • blobby green style avatar for user hoangmic003
    How do electors determine who they should vote for? Do the people vote for electors or do the electors choose to vote for a certain candidate based on what the state's popular vote is?
    (1 vote)
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    • duskpin ultimate style avatar for user Caleb Chay
      Both; a slate of potential candidates/electors for the Electoral college are gathered months before the Election Day by the different political parties. Then on Election Day, the voters select a ticket with the candidates name and thereby select the specified electors. Those electors vote for the next president, and vote for which nominee (nominees are voted for by the people on Election Day) they want as the president.
      (1 vote)
  • blobby green style avatar for user Oj900
    Can i say that The Electoral College is controlled by the executive branch?
    (1 vote)
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  • starky seed style avatar for user S
    Why do some states have more electors? Isn't that unfair?
    (1 vote)
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    • purple pi purple style avatar for user emmaw
      I agree with famousguy786, and would add that the way that electoral votes are calculated is the sum of all the members of Congress that state has: The two senators plus the number of Representatives in the House they have. This means that no state has fewer than three electoral votes, and California has the most with 55. So, the states' electoral votes are based off of population, but this is because the number of representatives in the House are also based on population
      (1 vote)

Video transcript

- [Instructor] In this series of videos about the Constitution, we've been discussing all the elements of balance and compromise that appear in the Constitution, the balance between large states and small states and between the different branches of government. But in this video I want to talk about one particular compromise made at the Constitutional Convention over how the president of the United States is elected, and that is the electoral college. I think these compromises reveal some real conflict among the framers over how they think the American Revolution did. Did they think that the Revolution went too far, had created too much equality and too much liberty for people who weren't ready to deal with it? Or did it not go far enough? So let's talk about this idea that perhaps the Revolution went too far, that the average American Joe, or Jedediah, I guess, could be the Revolutionary version of Joe, had too much a sense of his own importance, was going to tear down the social structures that had seemed natural during the American Revolution, the wealthy elites, the middling farmers, the rough and rowdy workers. You'll remember that one of the incidents that led to the decision to revise the Articles of Confederation was Shays's Rebellion in which a group of unruly farmers, Revolutionary War veterans, had marched against the governor of Massachusetts. So the people were used to rebelling, and they first had rebelled against Great Britain. But now that war was over, and they started rebelling against state governments. So there's a real sense throughout the Constitution that the founders were attempting to balance democracy, a representative government, with what they saw as too much democracy or mobocracy in their words, that unruly mobs who perhaps lacked the virtue of elite, educated citizens would foolishly tear down government that they weren't prepared to be part of. Now, you see that in things like the Senate. The members of the Senate were appointed, not elected, up until the 20th century. The idea that there had to be one part of the legislative branch that was selected by the better sort of men, the sort of people who really knew what good leadership looked like, not by a mob that might be swayed by any fancy talking politician. The founders didn't want all white men to be able to vote. They wanted voting to be reserved to the elite, the propertied, the educated, those who were prepared to be virtuous citizens. It wouldn't be until the 1820s that all white men could vote in elections, regardless of how much property they owned. Of course, it wouldn't be until the late 19th and 20th centuries that women and minorities would get the right to vote. So they had a very dim idea of the average citizen's ability to engage productively in democracy. And another way that they show this in the Constitution is in the process of electing the president. Article II establishes the executive branch, and it also discusses how presidential elections shall work. And it's a kinda complex process, the electoral college. But the simple version is that instead of having citizens vote directly for the president, the citizens would vote in each state, and then that state would have electors equal to the number of senators and representatives. And those electors would then cast votes for the president, and whoever got the most electoral votes should be president. And we still have this system today. This is a map of the current number of electoral votes that each state has. And really, what the founders intended here was to have a safeguard of the office of the president, believing that it would be possible for a mob to be swayed, even the better sorts of citizens, into voting for a politician who wouldn't be good for the office. And so they moved away from direct democracy into a slightly more complicated indirect system just to put an extra layer of safety in between the office of president and the unruly masses.