(RepublicanView.org) – The Founding Fathers enshrined the Electoral College in the United States Constitution to select presidents. Northern and southern concerns dominated the Philadelphia convention, with Pennsylvania delegate James Wilson advocating a nationwide election of presidents. However, Virginian James Madison said such a proposal would be unacceptable to the South.
Madison, a southern slave-owner, understood the northern states would dominate the southern ones because a high percentage of their populations included slaves. As a result, Congress adopted the Three-Fifths Compromise, which gave southern states such as Madison’s Virginia better representation through allocating votes using the Electoral College system.
How the Electoral College Works
The United States conducts presidential elections every four years. Some Americans don’t realize they don’t actually vote directly for the president. Instead, they cast their vote for an elector.
Each state has an elector for each member of its Congressional delegation. To be exact, a state has one elector for each member of the US House of Representatives, plus two electors — one for each US Senator.
The Republicans and Democrats for each state select their slate of electors. Then, once each state calls the winner of its election, that result decides which electors cast their votes for president. Maine and Nebraska allocate their electors proportional to their respective popular votes. The other 48 states and Washington DC use a “winner-take-all” system that assigns all the electors to the winner of each states’ popular vote.
What Happens Next?
Presidential elections take place in November, and on the first Monday after the second Wednesday of the following December, the electors meet in each state and cast their ballots. Next, the governor of each state signs a Certificate of Ascertainment listing the number of votes each candidate received and the corresponding number of electors.
On January 6, a joint session of Congress convenes to conduct the final count of the Electoral College ballots. The current number of electors totals 538, and once a candidate reaches 270 electoral votes, that individual is declared the winner of the election.
As the President of the Senate, the United States Vice President presides over the count and names the election’s winner. Then, the president-elect takes the oath of office on January 20.
The Benefits of Using the Electoral College System
Several benefits exist to using the Electoral College system. For instance, as James Madison noted, it levels the playing field so states with massive populations, like California and New York, don’t dominate the selection of presidents.
Using the Electoral College forces candidates to seek approval from a nationwide cross-section of Americans instead of enticing them to focus on densely populated urban centers. In this way, presidential candidates must attain widespread support from all Americans. As a result, this method of electing presidents promotes moderate candidates over their radical counterparts.
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