Carla Killough McClafferty
Illuminating lives from the past,
impacting lives in the present
You might be thinking: But I thought the American public elected the President of the United States! Citizens do elect the President, but so does the Electoral College.
It works like this: The Electoral College is made up of individuals called electors that represent each state and the District of Columbia. Each elector gets one vote in the Electoral College. The number of electors each location gets depends on its population. Because the number of people in each state varies across the nation, the number of electoral votes varies too. Several states have 3, the lowest number of electoral votes. California has 55, the highest number of electoral votes. In all, the number of votes in the Electoral College is 538. The candidate who receives a majority of those votes, 270 out of 538, is elected as the President of the United States.
You might be thinking: Then why do the citizens of America vote, if the Electoral College elects the President? The answer is: The votes of American citizens will determine for whom the electors in the Electoral College will vote.
Most states have a winner-take-all system. This means their electors will cast their vote for the candidate who won the popular vote in their own state. For example, if Candidate A received the majority of votes its citizens, then every elector in the Electoral College from that state would vote for Candidate A.
Heavily populated states have more votes in the Electoral College system than less populated states. Because of this, it is possible for a presidential candidate to receive the majority of votes from the American people and but lose the election.
Has this ever happened before? Yes, four times! John Quincy Adams in 1824, Rutherford B. Hayes in 1876, Benjamin Harrison in 1888, and George W. Bush in 2000.
Through the years, some have suggested the President should be elected by the majority vote of the American public, without the Electoral College. To change the method of electing the President of the United States would require a Constitutional amendment.
Congress has never passed a proposal to make the change.
Electoral Votes Alphabetically by State
Arizona 11Montana 3
District of Columbia 3
New Hampshire 4
New Jersey 14
New Mexico 5
New York 29
North Carolina 15
North Dakota 3
Rhode Island 4
South Carolina 9
South Dakota 3
West Virginia 5
This fascinating book by Carla, tells the story of how we know exactly what George Washington looked like as a young man. It combines forensics with history.
Carla Killough McClafferty is a member of iNK's Authors on Call and is available for classroom programs through FieldTripZoom, a terrific technology that requires only a computer, wifi, and a webcam. Click here to find out more.
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