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Electoral college:take a close look

Q: What is the Electoral College?<!—->.

Tuesday, November 28, 2000

Q: What is the Electoral College?

A: The founding fathers of the United States of America, the men we often call the framers of the constitution, were avid students of government and civic organization. Though creative and intelligent, these men also did their research.

Their study brought them to the concept of government by democracy. This system seemed to offer the most freedom, liberty and elasticity over time. Yet, a pure democracy offered up a set of problems that the founders couldn’t seem to solve. After much thought, the framers of our form of government decided upon the system of government called a republic. In this system, the people elect "representatives" to vote for them and to represent their interests, philosophies and beliefs.

Like many of our electoral representative bodies in this Republic (the United States), when we vote for a president, we actually elect a representative to "vote for us" at an appointed time so that our wishes and the will of the state (such as Ohio) can be expressed. The Electoral College, then, is the representative body that goes to an appointed place at an appointed time after the general election and actually votes for the president of the United States.

Q: How does the Electoral College work?

A: Basically, the Electoral College works like this. Every ten years, the national census figures are used to adjust how many electoral representatives each state is allowed. This number plus two (representing the two senators) determines the number of electors each state will have. The constitutional fathers were concerned, not only in individual representation, but also in the states’ rights. With this method, they figured, the people and the state had a power in the vote. Because of the special circumstances, the District of Columbia (the capital) was allocated 3 electoral votes. Ohio, for example, has 21 electoral votes whereas sparsely populated South Dakota has only 3 votes. California, with the many people there, boasts a vote of 54 (which is the largest in the US). Yet, this method does allow lesser-populated states to figure into the mix when presidential candidates are putting together their campaign strategies. When the population of a state gives a majority of their vote to a certain candidate, then, in turn, the electors cast their electoral votes for that particular candidate. Thus, though a candidate may receive more popular vote over all, he may still lose the election because another candidate carried more of the "bigger" states. The framers wanted to establish a balance between direct popular vote and states’ rights.