column 01 2020

With the 2020 national elections approaching, in the United States, naturally questions about the Electoral College are bound to surface. As we recall, the presidency was won by a candidate who garnered only 46% of the popular vote in 2016. However, our current president did receive a clear majority of the electoral vote count.

In brief, the United States Electoral College, is a group of electors, in each US State and the District of Columbia, who formally cast votes, after the general election, for the selection of the President and Vice President. The number of electors, for each state, is based upon the congressional representation for each state in the US Congress. The electoral college was created by the US Constitution.

One view, concerning the electoral college: it is a system which indirectly elects the president because the electors’ final vote is what counts. Another view, which was the intend of the constitution, is the balancing of electoral power between large population states and smaller population states. It is a compromise system between: 1) congress electing the president and 2) the popular vote electing the president; this was decided on by our nation’s founders in the late 18th century.


There has been five occasions when a presidential candidate was elected without winning the popular vote. This occurred in 1824, 1876, 1888, 2000, and 2016; the controversial election of 1824 – the winner, John Quincy Adams, earned only 30% of the popular vote – the outcome of the election had to be decided by the US House of Representatives.


Several US States have decided to legislatively alter the original intent of the Electoral College. Maine and Nebraska award their electoral votes proportionally. Fifteen states, and the District of Columbia, are now part of the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact. The member states of this agreement vow to award all of their electoral votes to the candidate who wins the popular vote. These 16 member states represent 1/3 of the total Electoral College votes. Member states include California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts, Maryland, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington State.