The Electoral College vs. Popular Vote

As votes continue to be counted in Florida, many are curious how the now-narrow margin of the popular vote in the 2012 presidential election will turn out.

Even though the state's 29 electoral votes won't make a difference in the outcome of the Presidential election, once again Florida has a race on its hands that is too close to call.

All precincts have reported results, but provisional and absentee ballots are still being counted.

Though it won't change the outcome of the election, many are curious as to how the popular vote in the state—and the nation—will end up, once each vote is taken into account.

As of 2:30 p.m. ET on Wednesday, Nov. 7, President Barack Obama had a narrow popular vote lead nationwide, according to the Huffington Post. As of that report, Obama led with 60,193,076 or 50.4 percent to 57,468,587 or 48.1 percent, with most U.S. precincts reporting.

So what is this electoral college?

The electoral college is a process, not a place, according to the U.S. National Archives. The electors are nominated at either their State party conventions or by votes from the state's central committee. 

According to the archives, "Electors are often chosen to recognize service and dedication to their political party. They may be state-elected officials, party leaders, or persons who have a personal or political affiliation with the Presidential candidate."

Voters in each state choose the electors by casting votes for the presidential candidate of their choice on election day, according to the archives. In some states, the names of the electors appear on the ballot below the name of the candidates. The winning candidate in the state's elections are awarded all the electoral votes (except in Nebraska and Maine).

No federal law requires that the electors vote for who the general population voted for. Electors generally vote for the popular vote in their state, however.

How does it work?

A total of 538 electors exist. A majority of 270 decide the presidency. Allocations of electoral votes are based on the most recent census. 

On Dec. 16, the electors will get together to cast their votes. On Jan. 6, Congress will count the votes and make it official. 

Throughout history, four presidents lost the popular vote but won the electoral: John Quincy Adams in 1824, Rutherford Hayes in 1876, Benjamin Harrison in 1888 and George W. Bush in 2000. 

(On a side note: this basically ensures that an independent candidate has no chance of ever becoming president.)

Why does it even exist?

Because, when it was first formed in 1788, information was hard to come by. They didn't want the vote to fall to people who may not know all the facts. Some thought that Congress should select the president, others thought it should be based purely on popular decision. The Electoral College was the compromise. 

The division of electoral votes are as follows:

  • Alabama - 9
  • Alaska - 3
  • Arizona - 11
  • Arkansas - 6
  • California - 55
  • Colorado - 9
  • Connecticut - 7
  • Delaware - 3
  • D.C. - 3
  • Florida - 29
  • Georgia - 16
  • Hawaii - 4
  • Idaho - 4
  • Illinois - 20
  • Indiana - 11
  • Iowa - 6
  • Kansas - 6
  • Kentucky - 8
  • Louisiana - 8
  • Maine - 4
  • Maryland - 10
  • Massachussetts - 11
  • Michigan - 16
  • Minnesota - 10
  • Mississippi - 6
  • Missouri - 10
  • Montana - 3
  • Nebraska - 5
  • Nevada - 6
  • New Hampshire - 4
  • New Jersey - 14
  • New Mexico - 5
  • New York - 29
  • North Carolina - 15
  • North Dakota - 3
  • Ohio - 18
  • Oklahoma - 7
  • Oregon - 7
  • Pennsylvania - 20
  • Rhode Island - 4
  • South Carolina - 9
  • South Dakota - 3
  • Tennessee - 11
  • Texas - 38
  • Utah - 6
  • Vermont - 3
  • Virginia - 13
  • Washington - 12
  • West Virginia - 5
  • Wisconsin - 10
  • Wyoming - 3

What do you think about the use of the electoral college versus the popular vote? Do you think the electoral college should be used to determine future presidential elections? Share your thoughts in the comments section.

Irene Coleman November 09, 2012 at 01:08 AM
The popular vote should determine the presidency. The president is the president of all the people. I see no current need for the electoral college.
Travel November 09, 2012 at 04:20 AM
I agree whole-heartedly with you
jimray November 09, 2012 at 11:39 PM
if the powers that be know that by having the electoral college in place will prevent an independent from ever winning the election then why even have anything other than the two parties competing? and why spend 100s of millions of dollars trying to convince the public to vote for you when its the 538 electorals that count! am i missing something here?
Arthur Christopher Schaper November 10, 2012 at 01:37 AM
Now more than ever, this country needs the Electoral College. a medium for ensure moderate majorities instead of partisan populists who lead by opinion instead of wisdom. The Framers of the Constitution instituted this compromise between popular and Congressional election because of the poor quality and availability of information. Now, because of the excessive amount of information, much of it arbitrary commentary and abrupt opinion, a college of informed and dispassionate electors moderates the majority votes from each state is still necessary. One reform, already instituted in Maine and Nebraska, the Congressional District Method, would ensure that every state received reception from Presidential candidates and representation in the electoral college. One elector per Congressional district in each state, with two electoral votes going to the state-wide winner: these are the elements of the Congressional District Method.


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