By Guiselle Rubio
Many people believe that when they cast their ballot in a presidential election it’s the same as when they vote for governor or senator. The candidate with the most overall votes wins, right?
The voting process for president is different, almost a two-tiered system. It includes a popular vote at the state level, but who actually becomes president depends on how many Electoral College votes he or she receives, not how many people in the states vote for the candidate.
“Although people think they are voting for president, they are not,” said Democrat Robert Renaud, an elector for the New Jersey Democratic Party in the 2012 presidential election. “They are voting for electors to vote for president. So the purpose of the electoral college is actually to elect president.”
The number of electors for each state is determined by the number of U.S. Senators each has (2) and the number of U.S. Representatives, which is determined by population. New Jersey has 14 electors. New Hampshire has 4. California 55. Texas 38. Florida and New York, 29 each. Add the number of electoral votes across the 50 states and territories and you reach 538. To win the presidency, a candidate must collect 270.
The popular vote at the state level is what determines which candidate gets those Electoral College votes. If more voters in New Jersey cast their ballot for the Republican candidate, all 14 Electoral College votes go to the GOP candidate. If the Democratic candidate receives more votes, all Electoral College votes in the state go to that candidate. In this way, it’s actually possible to receive more votes but lose the election, as Vice President Al Gore did in the 2000 presidential election, He had more actual votes per state, but Gov. George W. Bush of Texas had more Electoral College votes. The electors are pledged to the candidate of their party.
The state Democratic and Republican committees choose the electors of the Electoral College. According to the National Archives and Records Administration, the electors are chosen for being recognized for their dedication to their political party.
During the November election, people cast their ballots to vote for the electors who are pledged to the presidential candidate by party. Separate ballots for the presidential candidates are cast by the electors in December. In order to win the election, the candidate must have a majority of the electoral votes.
“My role in the electoral college was to cast the ballot for the choice, which was Barack Obama, based on the voters of New Jersey,” said Christopher Irving, a member of the 2012 Electoral College for the New Jersey State Democratic party. “Their total vote was what instructed me on who I should vote for.”
Even though previous members Renaud and Irving both felt privileged for being chosen to be a part of the Electoral College, they both agreed that if they could they would make changes to the Electoral College. Irving said that he would choose to eliminate the Electoral College, though he doesn’t think it’s likely to happen anytime soon.
“I would eliminate the Electoral College; I think it’s an archaic attempt by our founders to fix the electoral process if the people ever elect someone who might be contrary to helping,” said Irving. “The problem with that is that every election in the country is popular vote with the exception of the president of the United States.”
Like Irving, Renaud had his issues with the Electoral College.
“The problem with the Electoral College is this: the Electoral College is weighted towards states that have a relatively small population,” said Renaud. “A state that is small enough to have one representative would have three votes in the Electoral College. A state that has three times as many people but only has five members of the Electoral College doesn’t get twice as many votes.”
For more information on the Electoral College and a full list of its previous members, please visit: http://www.archives.gov/federal-register/electoral-college/about.html