Every four years, the United States has an election to pick a new president. While people do vote in a general election, the president is picked by a group called the electoral college. There are 538 people – called electors – in the electoral college. That’s one for every Representative and Senator in each state.
When the people in each state vote in the general election for president, they’re really voting for which political party’s electors gets to vote for president later. After all the states have counted the votes of the people and chosen which electors will vote, the electoral college gets together and votes for president. Whoever gets 270 or more of the 538 electoral votes becomes president of the United States.
Why Have the Electoral College?
The founding fathers didn’t want Congress to vote for president, because they wanted the people to have more of a choice. But they also didn’t want just a vote of the people, because then smaller states wouldn’t have any say in who wins. They worried that without something like the electoral college, whoever won the votes in the states with the most people would become president and smaller states would be ignored and maybe even mistreated.
Is it Fair?
Some people worry that if we get rid of the electoral college, then the states with the most people, like New York and California, would get to pick the president every time, and states with fewer people, like Wyoming and Iowa, would never get a choice because they just wouldn’t have enough people to compete. Because every state gets some electors to vote for president, even the smallest states get to be involved.
On the other hand, some people think that this is unfair. They believe that whatever most people want is what we should do. That’s called the popular vote: a general vote by the people, and whoever gets the most votes wins. People who want to rely on the popular vote want to get rid of the electoral college because they think it gets in the way of the result that most Americans vote for.
While Americans disagree on whether we need the electoral college, the country must have a system that truly represents the will of the people.