The Electoral College

The Electoral College is something that everyone has heard of before but very few know what it really does concerning elections. For starters, Andrew Napolitano thinks it’s important to understand that the Electoral College as it is known is not a physical place but instead a process where electors vote for the national President and Vice President candidate in the United States. When the founding fathers created the Constitution and started formalizing how the United States would run, they were worried about giving any entity total power over any government processes. This included the people as a whole as well. Because of this, the founding fathers created the Electoral College as a compromise between the votes of the people, the popular vote, and the votes of congressional officials, such as Senators and House of Representative members. There are 538 Electors in total which reflects 538 members in Congress and just as there are two Senators for each state and a specific number of House of Representative members for each state, there are the same number of Electors for the state. For example, the state of Georgia has two Senators, like every other state, and has fourteen House of Representative members so Georgia has a total of sixteen Electors in the Electorate College.

That being said, how many Electors a state gets isn’t the whole entire story. Logical follow-up questions such as where are these Electors coming from and who puts them into these positions are concerning questions as well. Unfortunately, the process of being appointed an Elector for a state varies from state to state but generally a candidate’s political party will appoint a number of Electors for that state and because of this process of appointment, qualifications for who can be in the Electoral College vary as well. The process of how Electors’ votes win states is a little complicated as well but generally whenever a person goes to the polls to vote for whatever candidate they vote for, they are actually in turn voting for the Elector of that candidate. The Elector or political party that gets the most votes will vote to reflect the popular vote; however, this is not something that is formalized by the Constitution but is instead suggested. Some states have passed pledge based laws that force Electors to vote as a reflection of the popular vote but this is not a federal mandate that all states must follow. This is one of the reasons why some people hesitate to vote in general elections; however, this too would be a mistake because during the general election the states are assigning electors based on the results. What that means is that when people turnout for election day and vote, they are assigning their state’s Electors who will in turn vote for presidential candidates supported by their state’s popular vote.

While this process can be confusing, it’s important to understand. Influential people such as Andrew Napolitano, a former superior court judge for the state of New Jersey, talks in depth about how the Electoral College is an important process to understand for voters. Napolitano explains a process where the Speaker of the House can become an acting President should the Electoral College fail to make a firm decision by a deadline. In this example, he’s explaining a scenario where the college, as confusing as it may be, has real world consequences in America’s governance.