Ask SAM: How does the electoral college work?


The bigger problem with the bright idea of killing the Electoral College, as Julia Azari notes at FiveThirtyEight, is how easy it is for the small states that benefit from it to block a constitutional amendment in the U.S. Senate, or block its ratification by the states themselves (it just takes one-fourth of them plus one). As of late Wednesday, he had 290 to Clinton's 228.

The search "What is the electoral college?" spiked on Google following Donald Trump winning the election for president of the United States. There is also the matter of convincing enough electors to vote for Clinton. Twenty-six states and Washington, D.C., do, however, "bind" their electors to vote for the promised candidate on December 19 - in this case, Trump.

As realization of this fact sinks in, calls for abolishing this archaic institution are sure to spread.

In other words, if Washington D.C. has three electors and two voted for Donald Trump and one voted for Hillary Clinton, the majority of the votes were for Trump, so he would receive the three electoral votes for the District of Columbia. So far, it has been enacted into law in 11 states, with a total of 165 electoral votes, and will take effect when adopted by states with 105 more, guaranteeing 270 electoral votes, a winning margin, to the popular vote victor. Trump is nine votes over the 270 needed to win, but some of them can be awarded to Clinton by what's known as Faithless Electors.

The Electoral College - which was first introduced in 1804 - is comprised of 538 electors.

However, there is technically nothing stopping any of the electors from voting their conscience and refusing to support the candidate to whom they were bound, or from abstaining from voting altogether. According to The Hill, 11 states with 165 electoral votes have enacted the National Popular Vote bill into law.

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"Mr. Trump is unfit to serve", the petition claimed.

Getting enough electors to swing their votes from Trump to Clinton, however, is easier said than done. "His scapegoating of so many Americans, and his impulsivity, bullying, lying, admitted history of sexual assault, and utter lack of experience make him a danger to the Republic", the petition reads.

No. Our Constitution says the Electors choose.

The electors are chosen in large part because of their loyalty and service to the party, meaning that they are perhaps the least likely people in the world to go against their party's line. And it will nearly certainly go one way, with most of the electors casting their ballots for Donald Trump and making him President.

So called "faithless electors" can buck tradition and support the candidate who lost their state, but only 157 have done so in the 240 year history of the us, according to the nonprofit FairVote. "If electors vote against their party, they usually pay a fine", the petition states. But they can vote however they want and there is no legal means to stop them in most states.