How the Electoral College Works
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How the Electoral College Works


Ah, Election Day, when Americans everywhere
cast their ballot for the next President of the United States. Except, not really – Americans don’t directly
vote for president. So, what’s happening on election day then?
It’s a bit complicated because of something called the Electoral College. To keep things simple for now, think of the
Electoral College as a collection of the 538 votes that determine who the President of
the United States will be. Why 538? Because that’s the number of Senators 100
plus the number of Representatives, 438 in Congress. Why are there 438 Representatives
in Congress? Stop asking so many question right now we’re
trying to keep this simple: These 538 votes in the Electoral College aren’t
given to the citizens directly, but are instead divided among the states. So how does the Electoral College give out
the votes? Each state, no matter how populous or not,
gets three votes to start. The remaining votes are given out roughly in proportion to the
population of the state. The more people the state has, the more votes it gets. Here is a map of the United States showing
the voting power each states has by making one hexagon equal to one electoral college
vote for president. Because electoral votes mostly – though
not completely – scale with population it’s also a map of where people live with a bonus
given to the smaller states to make them a bit bigger than they would otherwise be. In early November, when citizens go to the
polls they aren’t voting for president directly but they’re really telling their state how
they want *it* to use its electoral votes. 48 of the 50 states give all their electoral
college votes to the candidate who wins a majority in their state. Take Florida, for example, which has 29 electoral
college votes. If a candidate wins a majority, no matter how small that majority, he gets
all the votes. So the path to the Whitehouse is clear: win
enough majorities in enough states to get more than half of the Electoral college votes
and you get to sit at the big desk. That wasn’t so complicated, you say. Well, there were a few details left out: The Electoral College loves states, but what
about the 11 million Americans who don’t live in a state? What happens to their vote, and where are
these people hiding? There are about 600,000 in the District of
Columbia an area set aside specifically *not* to be a state so that the capital of the country
would be free of local politics. For most of the United States’ history people
living in the district didn’t get to vote for president. Then in 1964 the constitution
was amended to give D.C. the same number of votes as the least populous state, Wyoming. So the electoral college likes DC. But you
know who it doesn’t like? The Territories. The often forgotten Puerto Rico, Guam, U.S.
Virgin Islands and Northern Mariana Islands, get no votes from the electoral college because
they aren’t states and they don’t have a special constitutional amendment to recognize them. Which is a bit odd considering they’re part
of the United States and everyone who lives there is a citizen so — for most practical
purposes — they’re just like D.C. And 4.4 Million people live in the territories
— that might not sound like a lot, but it’s than the populations of Wyoming, Vermont,
North Dakota, South Dakota, Alaska & Delaware. Combined. But still, no votes from the Electoral College
do they get. The whole situation with territories is extra
strange when you consider the final group of Americans who don’t live in States, the
6.3 million Americans who live abroad. If you’re a United States citizen who moves
to a foreign country, you can usually send a postal vote to the last state that you resided
in. But, if you move *within the United States*
to one of its territories, you lose your right to vote for president for as long as you live
there – making these the only spots on the whole earth where Americans are not allowed
to vote for president. Actually, they’re the only spots in the whole
Universe because American astronauts are allowed to vote for space. The last bit of electoral college complication
is the weirdest and has to do with the votes themselves. The state of Florida — and all the others
— doesn’t really give votes to a candidate, that’s just a simplified way to think about
it, because the reality of the situation is… odd. What citizens are voting for on election day
is a group of electors appointed by the political parties who chose the president on the citizens’
behalf. The number of votes that a state gets from
the Electoral College is actually the number electors the state is allowed to send to a
collegiate meeting to vote on who the president will be. What makes it odd is that while these electors
promise they will vote for president as their state’s citizens want them to, *they aren’t
required to do so*. Electors are free to vote the way they want
. While this has never swung an election, 87 times in the past electors have voted against
the wishes of the very people who elected them. Why set up this crazy system where a small
group of people essentially unknown to the general public are the ones who really decide
on the president? Because in the 1700s — when the electoral
collage was designed — the quickest way to send a piece of information was to write it
on a piece of paper, hand it to a guy on a horse, wish him ‘godspeed, good sir’ and hope
he didn’t get killed by indians or die of dysentery along the way. Because information moved so slowly and because
the young country was so big, the idea was to send all the electors to Washington where
they could have the most up-to-date information to make decisions for the people back home
who wouldn’t know the latest news. Though now, when we carry information on beams
of light in fiber optic cables rather than on the backs of herd animals this particular
aspect of the electoral college might seem a little out of date. None the less, while most people think that
the election for president takes place in early november it doesn’t — that’s the election
that determines who the electors will be. The 538 electors who are chosen then meet
in early december and they cast the real votes that determine who is the next president of
the United States.

100 Comments

  • Max Hess

    There are only 435 Representatives in Congress. The 3 remaining votes come from the District of Columbia. Also, the Electors meet in their respective states, not in Washington.

  • elijah7k

    BS this was done so they could manipulate elections all the while passing as a Democracy.
    This is how Republicans steal elections.

  • Jody Bruchon

    There are enough people in the top ten metropolitan districts to decide the popular vote for the entire country. Nearly every single one of those is "blue." You're arguing that the metro areas of L.A., New York, Chicago, Houston, etc. should decide who is the president of the United States. Why should people who live in less urban areas have no voice simply because they live in a lower population density state?

  • JJ's Kaleidoscope

    There are actually 435 members of the House of Representatives. The other three electoral votes come from DC, which doesn't get representation in Congress.

  • CanadaCommunity Org

    What about factoring in this https://www.healthline.com/health-news/you-shouldnt-buy-fluoride-free-toothpaste#1 process?

  • K M

    An Electoral College voter was threaten with his and his families lives if he didn't vote for Hillary. It was on the news. How do we stop this from happening in 2020? Without the voting system we have now too many people who are uninformed will vote for the popular candidate, not the best one. Our Founding Fathers were very intelligent and set it up this way to protect our country.

  • Ronan Mahaffey

    What I love is that my college professor told us to check out your videos for class because you explain everything perfectly

  • razis1972

    And the only Nation that is not ruled by public mob. This video didn’t mention that. Thank God for the electoral college!

  • Domenico Saviano

    This video is dishonest in its telling. And ,honestly, just more coastal elitism. It really does take away a voice from the smaller states and middle states. once the electoral college is gone, the only states you really have worry about are the 6 most populated states not cities. (california, texas, new york, florida, ohio, and pennsylvania) which is about half the population of the country. add in illinois and it IS more than half the population. just winning majority of those states and you got yourself a presidency. And in many cases, most of those states have voted for same party through out there history. so the smaller and not as populated states will become completely irrelevant.

  • José Arcadio Buendia

    I think the Electoral college should stay but votes should be allocated proportionally instead of winner-takes-all.

  • AdventureGalaxy Gamin

    the thing about the electoral college is it prevents the beliefs of the 51% from infringing on the rights of the 49%. in American democracy it is required. if you read some of the federalist papers or some quotes from the founding fathers you will see why we have this system. the system isn't perfect but it is better than a popular vote because of the basic concept of mob rule. love your video's just wanted to respectfully disagree.

  • The Farrell Edge Marketing

    A perfect example of why you don't want NY and CA picking your next president by getting rid of the electoral college. The Presidency is a state by state election, not a popular vote.

  • J G

    I don't think most people realize the various systems that the Electoral College has gone through. One of our founding father's, James Madison, tried multiple times to abolish the "winner take all" system, but to no avail; he was for the district approach – https://www.fairvote.org/how-the-electoral-college-became-winner-take-all . Thomas Jefferson, another founding father, was as well; saying in 1800, "All agree that an election by districts would be best, if it could be general…"

  • Roman Yoder

    Most states have binding laws in place for the electors, where if they were to vote contrary to the winner of the state election, they can receive fines, even jail time.

    But yes, the EC is still a little screwed up.

  • mj mclaugh

    This is NOT as much on how the electoral college works as it is on what he believes are the reasons the system doesn't work

  • Michael Wood Jr.

    Response Video: Let’s Clear the Air on the Electoral College, Equity, and Capitalism

    The truth behind a narrative of American tribalism

    https://youtu.be/tdJ04dWR9eY

  • Mark 111

    The following list of statistics has been making the rounds on the Internet. It should finally put an end to this ill-informed, misreported
    bullshit as to whether the Electoral College makes sense or not today and eloquently, factually explains why magniloquent progressives want to eliminate it.

    There are 3,141 counties in the United States.

    Trump won 3,084 of them.

    Clinton won 57.

    There are 62 counties in New York State.

    Trump won 46 of them.

    Clinton won 16.

    Clinton won the popular vote by approx. 1.5 million votes.

    In the 5 counties that encompass NYC, (Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Richmond & Queens) Clinton received well over 2 million more votes than Trump. (Clinton only won 4 of these counties; Trump won Richmond)

    Therefore these 5 counties alone, more than accounted for Clinton winning the popular vote of the entire country.

    These 5 counties comprise 319 square miles.

    The United States is comprised of 3,797,000 square miles.

    When you have a country that encompasses almost 4 million square miles of territory, it is monumentally ludicrous to even suggest the vote of those who inhabit a mere 319 square miles should dictate the outcome of a national election for every single American.

    Large, densely populated Democrat cities (NYC, Chicago, LA, etc.) DO NOT and SHOULD NOT speak for the rest of our country!

    Like it or not this has all been verified its documented and those aforementioned 319 square miles are where the majority of our nation's problems foment. Look it up.

  • Bloodwolf 720

    0:35 just to make a correction there are actually 435 Representatives the other three are the electoral votes from DC due to the 23rd Amendment being passed in 1964

  • John Doe

    Biased shit. This simple video has the power to control people. We have the electoral college because the school systems are shit and people don't even know how many amendments are in the bill of rights. Tired of this shit. The Democratic party is full of uneducated people and they are being taken advantage of. This guy wants the territories to vote so that we can have even more Democratic votes and they can take our rights like they've been trying for the longest time. Always the first two of them. They're the first two for a fucking reason.

  • Jim Stanley

    Our founding fathers had also studied the history of both pure democracy and aristocracy and hated both as a method of electing the president. They feared an uninformed populace might be duped into electing a tyrant, and a group of "experts" might be too disconnected from the people and just choose whomever they wished. The electoral college was a compromise of both. You have a roughly popular vote represented by an informed group of people who are trusted to make the best decision for the country (and not necessarily the one they were elected for.)
    I think it would be better to give the two "senator" votes to the popular candidate and apportion the remainder according to the congressional districts. That way, the outnumbered party members in California and Texas get to cast a meaningful vote.
    Another option might be a Mixed-Member Proportional system.

  • hypatia of Alexandria

    The Electoral College is how California can't vote to take all the resources from say Colorado.. they have more people not more say..

  • hypatia of Alexandria

    Wouldn't it be great if New York and California could control the rest of the United States because of pure population? No! This video is misrepresenting the function of the Electoral College.

  • MsDarby64

    So you started out explaining how it works, then went off on some biased track just bitching about. How about some historical context regarding why we have it and explaining that it's meant to equalize the vote between populous states and the smaller states by population?

    I'm calling this a major fail.

  • Milkman69ner

    The electoral college is a good thing. It stops smaller populated states getting fucked over by cucks in New York or California

  • Sara Hendrix

    It's not out of date, the founding fathers saw through the tests of time. It is to protect against tyranny and us falling to democracy (majority or mob rule) A constitutional republic (ruled by law) is what they gave us and the electoral college is an important part of the safeguards in the Constitution. Thank God we have it as it also protects against foreign interference. And to the Republic for which our flag stands! One nation under God! With liberty and justice for all!

  • newstart49

    Why do idiots think the faster they talk, the easier it will be to understand? This was explained much better by a video made in the 50's when people knew how to educate- and talk.

  • ELMO7TARAMQ8

    And in US Universities they always brag about how they have the best democracy system. I guess if the electors get bought thats system is not so good.

  • Johnny Baez

    You fail to say
    The reason we have the electoral college is so populated states don’t determine the outcome of the entire country

    With out the electoral college only CALIFORNIA , NEW YORK , TEXAS & FLORIDA (4 states out of 50) would determine The outcome of our country and how the country is ran .

    Clinton won the popular vote but that was just California and New York

    So basically the electoral college gives everyone a playing field.

    This is why you see candidates going to fly over states and also populated states like Florida , Pennsylvania, Michigan , Arizona, Nevada , Ohio , Wisconsin

    Your clearly one sided in this topic

    Inner cities shouldn’t be running the entire country

  • 12LOOK4 2FAST

    this guys a idiot. if there was not a electoral vote two states would determine our president California and New York. 48v other states would not be heard. Been that those states are are more populated. example trup won all county's in America except a few in California and New York. That are heavily populated therefore giving Hillary the people vote that's a fact. Dont be fooled by this idiot.

  • Salt Drinker

    Absolutely necessary to maintain the union of independent states that form the republic. If the hyper-populated states like NY and CA were permitted to effectively rule the nation based on their population alone it would be a violation of the tenets upon which the republic was founded. This would be ruinous.

  • WhatGoinOnPeople

    Why do they push us to vote when our vote doesn’t count? If the electoral get to choose who they want then who’s to say what people they are representing? So what’s the point? Does that make any sense?

  • Melvin Hunt

    Without the Electoral college, 4 states would Control America. California, Texas, New York, And Florida. Our Founding Fathers were Very, Exceptionally SMART Men! Thank God!

  • Win Gates

    If there was no Electoral College, and the president was elected by popular vote, those voting in states like Arkansas, Wyoming, Alaska, Hawaii, and Vermont would never have a say in who was elected, and the candidates would never bother campaigning in those states. Every candidate would only focus on the states with the biggest populations, i.e. California, Texas, Florida, New York, Ohio, etc. Get the most votes from a handful of states with the most people, viola', you're president regardless of the fact that a majority of states voted against you. It would effectively allow the most populous states to elect the president and basically tell all of the other states what to do, via the White House and that president's policies.
    With the Electoral College, each states majority matters, albeit some more than others because some states have many more electoral votes. But it forces the candidates to campaign everywhere and take each state into consideration. A presidential candidate can win the west coast, the northeast, and part of the midwest, but still lose the election because the other candidate won everything else.
    Do NOT let those crying for the Electoral College to be abolished get their way…..unless you want the most populated states electing every single president from then on. Then your vote REALLY wouldn't count.

  • Kevin Finkenbinder

    By asserting that the electoral college is due to communication speeds, you are showing ignorance. It is about avoiding the tyranny of the majority.

  • Marlyn Hebert

    Florida can vote for who ever they want. In 1968 Nixon won the state but all the Electoral College gave all their votes to George Wallace. People can vote for just abot every office under the sun but not the president. The Electoral College was set up because only 5% of the people could read or right back then but my keeping the college through gerrymandering the people have no say in who will be their leader. Does this remind you of Russia where they vote for their leader by stuffing the ballot box. Just gerrymandering Russian Style.

  • Musicinmotion

    We as a people need what america chooses. also, that is purchasing the assurance of our decisions considering our casting a ballot rights. our voters must be reasonable and not tricky. we will expels the appointive school once the test arrives at the most foreseen resolution to determine this presidential emergency.

  • Musicinmotion

    The presidential race result changed the confidence of the voters. that is the motivation behind why individuals are losing confidence in the administration in light of the fact that their uprightness is appalling and their qualities, ethics, morals are futile.

  • Brendan ODonnell

    If we counted the popular vote instead of the electoral votes, we’d be called the United State of America not the United States of America

  • Dmeads 56

    Another important fact is that not all electors are allowed to go against their citizens vote. Most states have made it illegal for their electors to do this.

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