An electoral college is a set of electors who are selected to elect a candidate to particular offices. Often these represent different organizations, political parties or entities, with each organization, political party or entity represented by a particular number of electors or with votes weighted in a particular way. The United States has been the only democracy in the 21st century that still uses an electoral college to select its executive president. The other democracies that used an electoral college for these elections switched to direct elections in the 19th or 20th century.[1]:215

Examples edit

 
United States presidential election votes by state, 2012

The United States Electoral College is the only remaining electoral college in democracies where an executive president is not directly elected.[2][3]

President of the United States edit

 
Electoral votes, out of 538, allocated to each state and the District of Columbia for presidential elections to be held in 2024 and 2028 based on the 2020 census; every jurisdiction is entitled to at least 3.
 
In the 2020 presidential election (held using 2010 census data) Joe Biden received 306 () and Donald Trump 232 () of the total 538 electoral votes.
In Maine (upper-right) and Nebraska (center), the small circled numbers indicate congressional districts. These are the only 2 states to use a district method for some of their allocated electors, instead of a complete winner-takes-all party block voting.

In the United States, the Electoral College is the group of presidential electors required by the Constitution to form every four years for the sole purpose of voting for the president and vice president. Each state appoints electors under the methods described by its legislature, equal in number to its congressional delegation (representatives and senators) totaling 535 electors. The federal District of Columbia also has 3 electors under an amendment adopted in 1961. Federal office holders, including senators and representatives, cannot be electors. Of the current 538 electors, a simple majority of 270 or more electoral votes is required to elect the president and vice president. If no candidate achieves a majority there, a contingent election is held by the House of Representatives to elect the president and by the Senate to elect the vice president.

The states and the District of Columbia hold a statewide or districtwide popular vote on Election Day in November to choose electors based upon how they have pledged to vote for president and vice president, with some state laws prohibiting faithless electors. All states except Maine and Nebraska use a party block voting, or general ticket method, to choose their electors, meaning all their electors go to one winning ticket. Maine and Nebraska choose one elector per congressional district and 2 electors for the ticket with the highest statewide vote. The electors meet and vote in December, and the inauguration of the president and vice president take place in January.

The merits of the electoral college system is a matter of ongoing debate in the United States since its inception at the Constitutional Convention in 1787, becoming more controversial by the latter years of the 19th century, up through to the present day.[4][5] More resolutions have been submitted to amend the Electoral College mechanism than any other part of the constitution,[6] with 1969–70 as the closest attempt to reform the Electoral College.[7]

Supporters argue that it requires presidential candidates to have broad appeal across the country to win, while critics argue that it is not representative of the popular will of the nation.[a] Winner-take-all systems, especially with representation not proportional to population, do not align with the principle of "one person, one vote".[b][11] Critics object to the inequity that, due to the distribution of electors, individual citizens in states with smaller populations have more voting power than those in larger states.[12] This is because the number of electors each state appoints is equal to the size of its congressional delegation, each state is entitled to at least 3 regardless of its population, and the apportionment of the statutorily fixed number of the rest is only roughly proportional. This allocation has contributed to runners-up of the nationwide popular vote being elected president in 1824, 1876, 1888, 2000, and 2016.[13][14] In addition, faithless electors may not vote in accord with their pledge.[15][c] Further objection is that candidates focus their campaigns on swing states.[17] By the end of the 20th century, Electoral colleges have been abandoned by all other democracies around the world in favor of direct elections for an executive president.[18][19]:215
 
The breakdown of votes in the U.S. Electoral College after reapportionment based on the 2010 census.

Past examples edit

The following examples are of electoral colleges that were replaced by other mechanisms of election like direct elections and are no longer in use.

Latin America edit

Before 1840, all presidents in Latin America were indirectly elected by legislatures or electoral colleges.[20]:202

Brazil's military dictatorship chose its president by an electoral college starting in 1964 comprising senators, deputies, state deputies, and lawmakers in the cities. The electoral college was replaced with a two-round system direct election in 1989, after the restoration of democracy.[21]

Colombia eliminated its electoral college in 1910.[20]:205

Argentina had an electoral college for its president starting with its 1853 Constitution[22][non-primary source needed] until amended in 1949 by President Juan Perón who replaced it with direct elections by popular vote starting in 1951. After the Revolución Libertadora the 1957 reform repealed the 1949 Constitution and the electoral college was used again in the elections of 1958 and 1963. The elections of March 1973 and September 1973 used direct elections by popular vote and a not used two-round system according to the Temporary Fundamental Statute enacted by the military junta in 1972. The elections of 1983 and 1989 used again the electoral college. The constitution was amended in 1994 and the electoral college was replaced with direct elections by popular vote, using a two-round system since 1995.[21]

Paraguay had an electoral college that was established by the 1870 Constitution, which was used to elect its president. The constitution was replaced in 1940 and the electoral college was replaced with direct elections by popular vote since 1943.[21]

Chile had an electoral college established by the 1828 Constitution, which was used to elect its president in the elections from 1829 to 1920. The constitution was amended in 1925 and the electoral college was replaced with direct elections by popular vote since 1925.[21]

Europe edit

Norway used regional electoral colleges from 1814-1905 to elect legislators to the Storting, before switching to direct elections.[20]:199-201

France had its president elected by the legislature from 1875 to 1954. The first presidential election of the Fifth Republic which elected Charles de Gaulle was the only presidential election where the winner was determined via an electoral college.[21] The electoral college was replaced after the 1962 referendum, with direct elections by popular vote, using a two-round system since 1965.

Finland had an electoral college for the country's president from 1925 to 1988, except 1944 (exception law), 1946 (parliament) and 1973 (extended term by exception law). The electoral college was replaced by direct elections (consisting of two-round voting) since 1994.[citation needed]

In Spain, during the Second Republic period (1931–1936–39) the president was elected by an electoral college comprising the Parliament members and an equal number of democratically elected members ("compromisarios").[citation needed]

Asia edit

During South Korea's dictatorships of the Fourth and Fifth Republics from 1972 until 1981, the president was elected by an electoral college until democratization resulted in direct elections starting in 1987. Additionally, during the Fourth Republic, one-third of members of the National Assembly were nominally elected by the same electoral college which elected the president, though in practice they were appointed by the president.[citation needed]

South Africa edit

In apartheid-era South Africa from 1961 to 1983, the state president of South Africa was appointed by an electoral college consisting of all the members of the House of Assembly of South Africa and the Senate of South Africa.[23][non-primary source needed] Although after the adoption of the 1983 Constitution, transferring the position of state president from a legislative one to an executive one, the new House of Assembly, House of Representatives, and House of Delegates would designate 50, 25, and 13 of their members to the electoral college respectively.[24][non-primary source needed] The electoral college would disappear along with the apartheid government, with the president of South Africa being elected by the South African Parliament in 1994, which is still the method of election to this day.[citation needed]

Notes edit

  1. ^ The constitutional convention of 1787 had rejected presidential selection by direct popular vote.[8] That being the case, election mechanics based on an electoral college were devised to render selection of the president independent of both state legislatures and the national legislature.[9]
  2. ^ Writing in the policy journal National Affairs, Allen Guelzo argues, "it is worthwhile to deal directly with three popular arguments against the Electoral College. The first, that the Electoral College violates the principle of "one man, one vote". In assigning electoral college votes by winner-take-all, the states themselves violate the one-person-one-vote principle. Hillary Clinton won 61.5% of the California vote, and she received all 55 of California's electoral votes as a result. The disparity in Illinois was "even more dramatic". Clinton won that state's popular vote 3.1 million to 2.1 million, and that 59.6% share granted her Illinois's 20 electoral votes.[10]
  3. ^ Although faithless electors have never changed the outcome of a state popular vote, or the national total, that scenario was further weakened by the 2020 court case Chiafalo v. Washington.[16]

References edit

  1. ^ Levitsky, Steven; Ziblatt, Daniel (2023). Tyranny of the Minority: why American democracy reached the breaking point (First ed.). New York: Crown. ISBN 978-0-593-44307-1.
  2. ^ Ziblatt, Daniel; Levitsky, Steven (5 September 2023). "How American Democracy Fell So Far Behind". The Atlantic. Retrieved 20 September 2023.
  3. ^ Collin, Richard Oliver; Martin, Pamela L. (1 January 2012). An Introduction to World Politics: Conflict and Consensus on a Small Planet. Rowman & Littlefield. ISBN 9781442218031.
  4. ^ Karimi, Faith (10 October 2020). "Why the Electoral College has long been controversial". www.cnn.com/. CNN. Retrieved 31 December 2021.
  5. ^ Keim, Andy. "Mitch McConnell Defends the Electoral College". www.myheritage.org/. The Heritage Foundation. Retrieved 31 December 2021.
  6. ^ Bolotnikova, Marina N. (6 July 2020). "Why Do We Still Have the Electoral College?". Harvard Magazine.
  7. ^ Ziblatt, Daniel; Levitsky, Steven (5 September 2023). "How American Democracy Fell So Far Behind". The Atlantic. Retrieved 20 September 2023.
  8. ^ Beeman 2010, pp. 129–130
  9. ^ Beeman 2010, p. 135
  10. ^ Guelzo, Allen (2 April 2018). "In Defense of the Electoral College". National Affairs. Retrieved 5 November 2020.
  11. ^ Lounsbury, Jud (17 November 2016). "One Person One Vote? Depends on Where You Live". The Progressive. Madison, Wisconsin: Progressive, Inc. Retrieved 14 August 2020.
  12. ^ Speel, Robert (15 November 2016). "These 3 Common Arguments For Preserving the Electoral College Are All Wrong". Time. Retrieved 5 January 2019. "Rural states get a slight boost from the 2 electoral votes awarded to states due to their 2 Senate seats
  13. ^ Neale, Thomas H. (6 October 2017). "Electoral College Reform: Contemporary Issues for Congress" (PDF). Washington, D.C.: Congressional Research Service. Retrieved 24 October 2020.
  14. ^ Mahler, Jonathan; Eder, Steve (10 November 2016). "The Electoral College Is Hated by Many. So Why Does It Endure?". The New York Times. Retrieved 5 January 2019.
  15. ^ West, Darrell M. (2020). "It's Time to Abolish the Electoral College" (PDF).
  16. ^ "Should We Abolish the Electoral College?". Stanford Magazine. September 2016. Retrieved 3 September 2020.
  17. ^ Tropp, Rachel (21 February 2017). "The Case Against the Electoral College". Harvard Political Review. Archived from the original on 5 August 2020. Retrieved 5 January 2019.
  18. ^ Collin, Richard Oliver; Martin, Pamela L. (1 January 2012). An Introduction to World Politics: Conflict and Consensus on a Small Planet. Rowman & Littlefield. ISBN 9781442218031.
  19. ^ Levitsky, Steven; Ziblatt, Daniel (2023). Tyranny of the Minority: why American democracy reached the breaking point (First ed.). New York: Crown. ISBN 978-0-593-44307-1.
  20. ^ a b c Levitsky, Steven; Ziblatt, Daniel (2023). Tyranny of the Minority: why American democracy reached the breaking point (First ed.). New York: Crown. ISBN 978-0-593-44307-1.
  21. ^ a b c d e Ziblatt, Daniel; Levitsky, Steven (5 September 2023). "How American Democracy Fell So Far Behind". The Atlantic. Retrieved 20 September 2023.
  22. ^ The Constitution of Argentina of 1853, 32nd to 63rd Articles – Retrieved 16 January 2015
  23. ^ Africa, enacted the Parliament of South. Republic of South Africa Constitution Act, 1961.
  24. ^ Africa, enacted the Parliament of South. Republic of South Africa Constitution Act, 1983.

Sources edit

External links edit