Understanding the Electoral College

By Madison Evans

The Electoral College (in a very simple nutshell)

1.    538 Electors; (state representatives + # of senators + 3[from D.C]) 

2.    Each state gets 2 electors to start out with

3.    Divide the rest out based on population given from the census in 2010

a.    But because they started out giving out 2 there is not enough for some states to get the electors they deserve based on their population. 

                                               i.    Ex. Florida is missing 4, Texas is missing 6 electors, and California is missing 10 in the 2012 election and 2020 election. (the census goes into effect the year after it was taken)

1.    Making these states vote count less than the states that should have less but don’t

                                              ii.     The set number of electors is 538 since this number can’t be more than the equation in section 1.

b.    The population doesn’t get to vote for the electors of their state

                                               i.    They are selected by the parties 

4.    Have Election in November

a.    48/50 states are winner takes all (electors).

                                               i.    Territories don’t get a vote

                                              ii.     D.C. just got the rights to vote in 1968.

                                             iii.     Yet if voting from another country or the international space station you do get a vote based on the state you last lived in.

b.    The population is voting for their state’s electors for their candidate, unless they are not one of the 48 states in section 4a the population might not get their desired candidate.

c.    Electors don’t have to vote for the candidate that the population voted them to do

                                               i.    Population can want one but the state can choose the opposite

d.    Candidate only needs a little over half of the electoral vote to win

                                               i.    This is why candidates go after states with close races and not the ones that they already have a majority in

                                              ii.     Candidates can actually just win with the biggest 11 states

e.    In 4 Elections as of 2016 has the candidate winning without the popular vote

5.    Actual Election between Electors in December

a.    Electors vote on who gets to be the president

                                               i.    87 times (as of 2011) electors have voted against what their state wanted

b.    Based off of this system though a candidate won in November they can be stripped of their title in December

6.    A candidate needs to win with 50% + 1 of the electoral vote = 270 votes

7.    Out of 58 total elections 91%  (53 elections) of the time the winner has the popular vote. Meaning there is a 9% rate of failure for the President of the United States to be elected by the population.



Calculations if the electoral college was fair:

U.S. population/538 = electoral vote per person

State population / electoral vote per person = State Electoral votes


Example: based on the 2010 Census and rounding to the nearest million


309,000,000/538 = 574,000 electoral votes per person

25,000,000(Texas population)/ 574,000 = 44 Electoral votes (after rounding up to the nearest vote)



Texas only has 38 votes.



Helpful links:




Leave a comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.