Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Prof. Goldman: The Significance of The Electoral College

By Professor Stanley Goldman

This originally appeared on Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2000 webnews edition of Fox News Channel.

We all remember the Electoral College, don't we? We learned in high school, and probably haven't thought about it since, that the people don't really vote for the President or the Vice President of the United States. Rather, we all vote for our own state's Electors, who in turn, cast their votes for the candidates who won that state's popular vote. Each state is given a number of Electors equal to the number of that state's Congressmen and Senators, with the District of Columbia being allocated three electors for purposes of presidential elections, for a grand total of 538. In order to be elected President or Vice President, a candidate must receive a majority of at least 270 votes. It is often said that if the Electoral College works the way it's supposed to, it's useless, and if it doesn't, it's dangerous.

This year could be the first time in a long time that those dangers may actually become legitimate issues. Several political experts believe that this could be the first time in a century and a quarter that one candidate, possibly Al Gore, could win the popular vote and yet a different presidential candidate, George W. Bush, might actually be elected President by winning the Electoral College. This could happen if Gore wins big states like California and New York by wide margins, but Bush wins more Electoral votes in closely contested smaller states. As unexpected a result as this may sound, there are even more startling possibilities thanks to the intricacies of the rules surrounding the Electoral College.

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