Any Proud American here who wants to explain some of the United States Political terms below :

What is the Electoral College ? If there is bicameral US Congress(Senate & House of Representatives) what is the need of Electoral College ?

How the Electors reach Electoral college ? Who selects Electors ? What is the mechanism of their selection ? 

Hope someone will clear my concepts ?


Oct 6, 2016 5:13 PM
Comments · 16

Part 3 of 3

U.S. presidential campaign strategy is strongly affected by the system. Because of the "winner-take-all" nature of the vote (in forty-eight of the fifty states... I told you every state has its own laws!), all that matters in each state is who wins, not by how much. In a strongly Democratic state like Massachusetts, it is almost certain that Clinton will win--one site predicts 56% Clinton, 36% Trump, 8% Johnson--so the candidates don't spend much time or money in Massachusetts. It doesn't help Clinton if she gets 60%, and it doesn't hurt her if she only gets 51%. 

The system forces candidates to spend time in states of all sizes. If it were direct popular vote, they might concentrate entirely on the big cities and completely ignore less populous states like Wyoming or North Dakota.

"Battleground states" are states that have a large number of electoral votes, and in which the sentiment seems to be split, so that the vote could go either way. Massachusetts isn't important because everyone expects it to vote for Clinton. Oklahoma isn't important because everyone expects it to vote for Trump. Florida is hugely important because it has 29 electoral votes (a lot) and because it could go either way.

It is claimed that the system helps create a definite outcome, and reduce the chances of chaos due to a very close election, but that didn't seem to be true in the year 2000.

One consequence of the system is that it is quite possible for a candidate to win the popular vote but lose the election, and this has actually happened four times.

October 6, 2016

Part 2 of several

When I cast my vote, I am not really voting for Clinton or Trump. I am really taking part in a Massachusetts election to decide on a question. Massachusetts is asking me, "for whom should Massachusetts cast its 11 electoral votes?" (Almost) every state does this on a "winner-take-all" basis. If Clinton wins Massachusetts, even if it's only 51% to 49%, then Massachusetts casts all of its eleven votes for Clinton. If Trump wins Massachusetts, even if it's only 51% to 49%, then Massachusetts casts all of its eleven votes for Trump.

The Electoral College works in a mechanical and ceremonial way. It is not supposed to decide anything. Well after election day, when all the newspapers have announced the results, the electoral college vote actually takes place. There are not supposed to be any surprises. If Massachusetts were to vote for candidate A, and one of the eleven human electors said "Although I am formally pledged to vote for A, I am going to vote for B," they could do so and it would count. Depending on the laws of that state, they might be punished, but they could do it.

The Electoral College was designed to do two things: preserve the power of the individual states, and handle the mechanical details of voting in a time when there was no telephone or telegraph. 

I honestly don't know if I personally am in favor or against the electoral college system (in the sense of a winner-take-all state-by-state vote). The business of literally appointing humans as electors and actually taking an electoral vote is just crazy. Tradition.. ceremony... I don't know.

October 6, 2016

Part 1 of several.

The electoral college is very strange. Don't expect too much logic. It is partly just crazy, and partly a outdated custom.

The electoral college has no relationship to Congress. It only exists as part of the mechanism for conducting the national presidential election. It is best understood as part of the voting system

The best way to understand it is to remember that the United States is a federal republic of fifty states, and is much less unified than many other countries. The states have a lot of autonomy. Many of the most important laws that affect us are state laws, not federal (national) laws. For example, everything having to do with marriage, insurance, schools, and elections are state law. A lot of the Constitution is devoted to spelling out the power relationships between the federal government and the state governments.

In the presidential election, in a sense it is the states that vote. Each state gets a number of "electoral votes."  My state, Massachusetts, gets eleven electoral votes. It is entitled to cast 11 votes when the Electoral College meets. 

When I go to the polls on election day, I will walk three blocks to an elementary school and fill out a ballot. The ballot will have on it, the names of the two major candidates, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, as well as Jill Stein and Gary Johnson (who have no chance of winning). 


October 6, 2016

One last try. Let's see if I can keep it short.

1) The electoral college system means: the people do not directly elect the President. The states elect the President. Each state holds an election to decide whom the state will vote for. The state gets a certain number of votes according to the formula "total number of people that represent the state in both houses of Congress." There's no other connection with Congress. According to the laws of 48 of the 50 states, the state always casts all of its votes for the person who won in that state. This system may be good or bad; people argue about it.

2) The electoral college itself is ceremonial. It is of no importance. It is not a deliberative body. People do not campaign to become delegates. An elector has only one job: to cast his vote for the person the state orders him to cast it for. It could be done by a robot.

3) Elections are conducted by states according to state law. Each state decides whether to use paper ballots or voting machines, what places to hold elections, how voters register to vote, whether they can vote early, whether they can register over the Internet, whether or not they have to show ID when they vote.

4) Although states have great power, they are subject to the Constitution. Citizens have rights under the Constitution. States can't violate those rights. We see this playing out today in voter ID laws. Each state decides whether or not to pass a voter ID law. States can have voter ID laws. The Supreme Court has said it is OK to require voters to show ID. But the details matter. The Supreme Court has struck down voter ID laws when they seemed to be designed, not to prevent fraud, but to make it harder for African-Americans to vote.

October 7, 2016

1) There is no connection between the delegates of the Electoral College and the members of the two houses of Congress, except for the detail of their numbers. The Electoral College is not part of the bicameral system.

2) The two houses of Congress are extremely important. It is very hard to say which is more important or more powerful: Congress, which makes laws, or the President, who carries them out. Congress is in session and doing things most of the time, all year round, every year.  Because of the tension between popular power and states rights, we have the Senate, in which every state has two votes regardless of population, and "the House" [of Representatives], where representation is proportional to population.

3) The Electoral College itself is of no importance at all. It decides nothing. It exists for a short period of time, around the Presidential election, and performs a mechanical function in the voting process which could be done equally well just by having each state make an official report of its electoral vote total.

Few people know or cares how the electors are actually chosen. When I vote "for candidate A" I am really voting for "electors who are pledged to vote for candidate A in the Electoral College." Since I know they are going to vote for A I don't really care who they are. I believe that being an elector is a kind of gift that's used to reward important people in the party apparatus, making them feel important by giving them a ceremonial role.

4) In deciding the relative power of each state in choosing the President, they decided to use the total number of senators and representatives in Congress. This is a sort of compromise. California gets 55 electoral votes and Wyoming gets 3, so California gets 18 times the voting power of Wyoming, even though California has 65 times the population of Wyoming.

October 7, 2016
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