After Hillary Clinton lost the 2016 election to Donald Trump despite winning the popular vote by 2.7 million votes and counting, the Electoral College has come into the spotlight. Many Americans are calling into questions the Electoral College as a democratic system of voting. Others are attempting to sway enough so-called "faithless electors" to vote someone other than President-Elect Trump into office.
Before you get your hopes up and start signing every petition that passes under your nose, make sure you understand how the Electoral College works and what outcomes are theoretically possible in this rollercoaster of an election.
What is the Electoral College?
The Electoral College is made up of 538 electors who cast votes to decide the President and Vice-President of the United States. These 538 electors represent the sum of the nation's 435 Representatives, 100 Senators, and 2 electors given to the District of Columbia. When voters went to the polls, they chose which candidate received their state’s electors. The candidate who received a majority of electoral votes (a minimum of 270) won the Presidency. This just so happened to be Donal Trump.
How does the Electoral College work?
In every state but Maine and Nebraska, the candidate who wins the majority of votes in a state wins all of that state's electoral votes - or as ABBA would say, "the winner takes it all." In Maine and Nebraska, the votes are given proportionally to both candidates based on congressional districts.
Do electors have to vote for their party’s candidate?
No, electors do not have to vote for their party's candidate. However, 27 states have laws on the books to deter "faithless electors" from refusing to vote for a different candidate.
When does the Electoral College cast its votes?
Electors cast their votes on December 19th. They will be read to Congress on January 6th.
What are the possible outcomes of the 2016 Election?
The 2016 Presidential Election as sparked petitions calling on electors to ignore their pledges and vote for the winner of the popular vote - Hillary Clinton. Other petitions have called to abolish the Electoral College altogether, or to follow Maine and Nebraska's lead by eliminating the winner-takes-all approach in every other state. Others still are calling for faithless electors to elect Vice-President-Elect Mike Pence or a different Republican candidate. While all of these outcomes are theoretically possible, most would take too much time and too many faithless electors to ever become reality in this election.
While the outcome of this election still hangs in the balance, one thing is certain: the whole country will be anxiously watching on December 19th.
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