noun (often initial capital letters)
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Origin of electoral college
Words nearby electoral college
What is the Electoral College?
The Electoral College is an indirect voting system in the United States in which electors from each state, appointed based on the popular vote, go on to vote for the president.
How is Electoral College pronounced?
[ ih-lek-ter-uhl kol-ij ]
How does the Electoral College work?
Though Electoral College sounds like an institution where one could earn a degree, it is actually the name of a process in which a body (college) of representatives (electors) vote for the president of the United States. This process was established in Article 2, Section 1 of the U.S. Constitution in 1787, which references “electors” appointing the “executive Power” on the basis of congressional and senatorial representation. The specific phrase Electoral College, however, wasn’t written into law until 1845.
The Founding Fathers of the U.S. designed the voting process of the Electoral College to prevent the public from electing an unqualified candidate and to ensure more populous states didn’t always determine the president over smaller states, many of which had a large slave population who historically were not allowed to vote.
So, instead of an outright popular vote, in which the winner is selected by whoever earns the most individual votes across the country, a presidential vote in the U.S. is actually a vote for electors within one’s state of residence, who then pledge to vote for the candidate with the most votes in the Electoral College. For example, if the Democratic presidential candidate wins the state of North Carolina, then the electors in North Carolina will be able to vote for them in the Electoral College.
Each state has a different proportional number of electors, based on population, with a total of 538 in the country. For a candidate to win the election, they must be voted in by at least 270 electors. Forty-eight states use a winner-take-all method wherein whatever candidate wins the popular vote of a state takes all of the electors, but Maine and Nebraska use a Congressional District Method, which gives one electoral vote to each state’s congressional districts.
Electors are chosen within each state by political parties, often voted on by the party’s committee and usually based on their prior service to the party. Though nominated electors can be politically active, they are forbidden from being a representative, senator, or holding any office of trust or profit. While electors pledge to vote for a candidate, they are not bound to do so, and are called faithless electors if they vote for a different candidate or don’t vote.
❗ Update: On July 6, 2020, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously ruled that states can require members of the Electoral College to vote for the candidates they pledged to support.
The electors do not meet and vote on Election Day itself; rather, they meet on the first Monday following the second Wednesday after the day of their appointment.
There is still fervent debate about whether the United States should switch a purely popular vote system. These arguments heated up in 2016 when candidate Donald Trump lost the popular vote to rival Hillary Clinton by nearly three million votes yet won the presidency due to the Electoral College system. Trump is the fifth President to lose the popular vote, following John Quincy Adams, Rutherford Hayes, Benjamin Harrison, and George W. Bush in the 2000 election.
There has long been a movement to end the Electoral College, but this presents unique challenges since the system is enshrined in the Constitution, and such a change would require a constitutional amendment. However, the National Popular Vote bill seeks to bypass this; the bill would make it so that if a candidate wins the national popular vote, any state that has ratified the bill will give their electoral votes to the popular winner. So far, this bill has passed in 11 states.
Examples of Electoral College
“The electoral vote on Monday—by the people who represent the Electoral College votes awarded on Election Day—has been the occasion for much speculation, hope and debate.”
—Lily Rothman, “The Electoral College Votes Today. But Politicians Have Been Trying to Reform It for Decades,” Time, December 19, 2016
“But [Al Gore] lost the election after losing Florida in the electoral college.”
—Paul Smalera, “Voting for a third party candidate in this election is the worst thing you can do for American democracy,” Quartz, September 29, 2016
This content is not meant to be a formal definition of this term. Rather, it is an informal summary that seeks to provide supplemental information and context important to know or keep in mind about the term’s history, meaning, and usage.
Example sentences from the Web for electoral college
Since 2000, Republicans have won the popular vote in a presidential election once, but the electoral college has delivered them two additional victories.
Out of four candidates, Jackson got the most votes in the electoral college, but he didn’t get a majority.Not all presidents’ dance skills are created equal|Bonnie Berkowitz, Joanne Lee|January 21, 2021|Washington Post
Rehnquist — joined by only two other justices — said that the Constitution gives the state legislature sole authority over elections and over the way that electors are chosen for the electoral college.Sen. Hawley has been condemned. His bad legal arguments should be stamped out, too.|Daniel Epps, Alan Trammell|January 20, 2021|Washington Post
When the electoral college voted, Vice President John Adams was the narrow victor, and his rival Jefferson became his veep.At the nation’s first presidential transfer of power, George Washington was ‘radiant’|Gillian Brockell|January 19, 2021|Washington Post
Both senators voted against certifying the electoral college results.Campaign finance system rocked as firms pause or halt contributions after election results challenged|Todd Frankel, Jeff Stein, Tony Romm|January 11, 2021|Washington Post
This is the Mexico that U.S. college students would be wise to steer clear of on spring break.Why Mexicans Are Enraged by Obama’s Big Tuesday Meeting|Ruben Navarrette Jr.|January 6, 2015|DAILY BEAST
Under the current president and his predecessor, Jett notes, the ambassadorship of Belize has gone to college roommates.
If the oft-talked-about college “hook-up culture” could be embodied by a place, it would be Shooters.
In my four years of college, I know exactly one woman who has asked a man out on a date.
This was also the year Duke University student Belle Knox put college girls on the map.Porn Stars on the Year in Porn: Drone Erotica, Belle Knox, and Wild Sex|Aurora Snow|December 27, 2014|DAILY BEAST
He was converted and baptized, and was the first Hebrew instructor at Harvard college.The Every Day Book of History and Chronology|Joel Munsell
They are very urgent questions; our sons and daughters will have to begin to deal with them from the moment they leave college.
But you will find most colleges and most college societies bar religious instruction and discussion.
In practice we find a good deal of technical study comes into the college stage.
In Scotland and America that is distinguished and thought of clearly as the college stage.
British Dictionary definitions for electoral college
Cultural definitions for electoral college
The presidential electors who meet after the citizens vote for president and cast ballots for the president and vice president. Each state is granted the same number of electors as it has senators (see United States Senate) and representatives combined. These electors, rather than the public, actually elect the president and the vice president. The Founding Fathers assumed that electors would exercise discretion and not necessarily be bound by the popular vote, but the rise of political parties undermined this assumption. Electors are now pledged in advance to vote for the candidate of their party, and nearly always do so. Thus, the vote of the Electoral College is largely a formality.