What The Fuck Is The Electoral College: Why Your Vote Doesn’t Technically Count, But Will Always Matter
Every four years or so, the term electoral college sneaks back into the everyday vocabulary. From here, it serves to confuse and irritate the masses—as well as determine the President and Vice President of the United States. As candidates close in on the golden number of 270 votes to win, here are some of the little-known facts surrounding one of the most misunderstood components of American politics.
What is the Electoral College?
Don’t let the name fool you, as the Electoral College is not an institute of higher education. Invented in 1787, it is the body of individuals that elect the President and Vice President of the United States. This is where the ‘my vote doesn’t count’ argument comes from. When you head to the ballot box in November, you aren’t technically voting for President and VP—you’re weighing in on a conversation and expecting the electors of your state to express the majority opinion of the state when they cast their official votes. Interestingly enough, electors don’t pledge these official votes until January 6 before Congress—almost two months after election day.
How are electoral votes distributed?
The number of electoral votes each state receives is equal to its congressional members, where states such as California carry 55 and Vermont only puts up three. 48 of the 50 states gift their entire basket of electoral votes to the winner of the popular vote of their state, with the exceptions being Maine & Nebraska. In these two states, the overall state winner takes two electoral votes and the remaining are awarded according the the victor of each congressional district.
Have electors ever not followed the vote of the people?
According to the National Archives, more than 99 percent of electors have followed the popular vote of their state—amounting to approximately 150 individuals that’ve strayed. 29 states currently have laws to punish these ‘faithless electors.’ An elector from Texas has recently threatened to not vote for Donald Trump, regardless of the votes casted by citizens of the state.
Has the popular vote ever lost?
Yes—as recently as 2000, when we received the presidential gift of George W. Bush. His opponent, Democratic candidate Al Gore, received over half a million more votes by the people but still didn’t take the White House because Bush beat him in electoral votes. Andrew Jackson, Samuel Tilden and Grover Cleveland were also popular vote winners who lost the presidential election.