November 6, 2012
Across the nation today, voters are casting ballots not for President directly but for presidential electors. These electors will constitute the Electoral College and will choose the next President and Vice President.
The Electoral College is not as complicated as it may seem. And it exists for a very important reason: to ensure the President is selected by a constitutional majority.
Each of the fifty states plus the District of Columbia is represented by a number of electors equal to the number of Representatives of the state, plus two Senators. For example, California has the largest amount of electors because it has the most Congressmen: 53 Congressmen+ 2 Senators= 55 Electors. (The District of Columbia has three votes, the number it would have if it were a state.)
The Electoral College ensures that the President is chosen by a constitutional majority. Candidates will be “moderated by the need to accommodate a variety of interests and viewpoints,” as Charles Kesler puts it. Candidates who focus too narrowly on a handful of states, regions, or metropolitan population centers will not be successful in the Electoral College.
There are no permanent “safe states” under the Electoral College. Some states “have simply already made up their minds based upon the years of decisions that preceded the election,” explains Tara Ross. Yet when a state ceases to be satisfied, it either becomes a safe state for the opposite political party or a swing state.
Moreover, the Electoral College is important because it magnifies the margin of victory and grants legitimacy to winners. As constitutional scholar Charles Kesler explains, the Electoral College combines democracy with federalism:
[T]he issue is democracy with federalism (the Electoral College) versus democracy without federalism (a national popular vote). Either is democratic. Only the Electoral College preserves federalism, moderates ideological differences, and promotes national consensus in our choice of a chief executive.
Do you think ensuring a constitutional majority favor the next president is important?