What Is The Electoral College
by Save Our States
The Electoral College unifies, moderates, and protects American politics. It is part of what makes the
United States a republic.
For more than two hundred years, the United States has enjoyed a uniquely peaceful and prosperous
existence under a system of constitutional and representative government. One reason is the Electoral
The Electoral College is, to be exact, the group of representatives (Electors) chosen in each state to cast
the official ballots (electoral votes) for President of the United States.
Each state gets as many Electors as it has members of the U.S. House and Senate—the math is the
same as in Congress.
Before the presidential election, each political party nominates people to become that state’s
Electors—people who pledge to cast electoral votes for that party’s presidential candidate.
When citizens vote in a presidential election, we are really voting for our candidate’s Electors—if our
candidate wins in our state, those Electors will represent us in the Electoral College, casting their
electoral votes for our candidate.
The Constitution gives state legislatures the power to figure out how Electors are selected. In 48 states
and DC, all the state’s Electors are chosen based on the statewide vote—this is called a winner-takeall
system. In Maine and Nebraska, one Elector is elected from each Congressional District, and the
remaining two are elected based on the statewide vote.
The Constitution requires Congress to set the day when Electors are chosen (Election Day) and the day
when the Electors meet and cast electoral votes. The Constitution requires Electors to meet in their
own states (the whole Electoral College never meets together—the Framers put this in the Constitution
to avoid corruption). Once the Electors cast their electoral votes, the results are sent to Congress
to count them and certify the official outcome. (See a full Electoral College timeline at the National
Every once in a while, an Elector doesn’t vote the way he or she pledged (so-called “faithless” Electors),
but this has never come close to affecting the outcome of an election.
The Framers of the U.S. Constitution created the Electoral College as a way to minimize the risks of
corruption, regionalism, and back-room politics in the selection of the nation’s executive. They rejected
a national popular vote because it offered no protection against regional candidates and they feared it
could be more easily manipulated.
The Electoral College forces candidates to build national support, unifying rather than dividing the
country. (Our greatest failure of domestic tranquility, the American Civil War, occurred only when
other political forces overcame the Electoral College incentives that favor moderate, two-party politics
and national unity.)
The Electoral College works even better than the Framers expected. They thought the system would
often deadlock as Electors exercised their independent judgment, leaving the final decision to the
House of Representatives. In fact, Electors became faithful representatives of their states and the
election has only gone to the House twice—in 1800 and 1824.
Because most states choose electors by winner-take-all, presidential candidates must have both a
base of states where a majority of voters support the candidate and then must reach out into the most
moderate, evenly balanced states to build enough support for an Electoral College majority.
The Electoral College turns swing states into microcosms of America, where candidates are forced to
go beyond the big cities and reach out to all kinds of people. At the same time, safe states are essential
for a party to have any claim to national status or any possibility of winning the presidency.
The system forces campaign strategists both to build national campaigns and to focus their outreach
in the most politically balanced states. And while the Electoral College does not require a two-party
system, it creates a healthy incentive for people to build the large coalitions that usually result in two
big, diverse political parties.
To become President, a candidate must win a majority of electoral votes—currently 270 out of 538
Save Our States is the one group dedicated to defending the Electoral College from the dangerous National Popular Vote campaign, which would nullify the Electoral College without a constitutional amendment. Potomac Tea Party is a member of the Save Our States coalition.