This is two parts, both short.1. Pick a topic from the lecture notes and form a question. Under the question write 8 sentences that explain why this question is important to understand. Include 1 source! EXAMPLE IS ATTACHED.2. Answer the two questions attached in 1-2 paragraphs each. Include 1 source for EACH.Should not take much time. Let me know if you have any questions.Copyrighted material
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Module 7
Election of the President: Electoral College
Video Lecture 7.1: How the Electoral College Works
Video Lecture 7.2: Is the Electoral College Consistent with Democratic Principles?
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Video Lecture 7.1
How the Electoral College Works
The General Election

The president is elected by the Electoral College, NOT by popular vote

There is a popular vote for electors in each state, but

Not accurate to view the presidential election as one national election

More accurate to view it as 51 separate elections in the 50 states & DC on the same day
How the Electoral College Works

Constitution allocates electoral votes to each state & Washington, DC

How many Electors (electoral votes) does each state get?
• One for each member in Congress

What is the minimum number of electors a state can have?
• Three: States guaranteed at least one House member & two Senators
• As state population increases, states get more House seats (& electoral votes)
– Primary purpose of Census (in years ending in “0”)—Reapportionment of House seats
– States gain/lose House seats (& electoral vts) depending on pop. change since last Census
• 23rd Amendment awards Washington, DC three electoral votes (number for least populous state)

What is the total number electoral votes?
• 435 House members
• 100 Senators

3 for DC
• 538 total

Each state appoints electors “in such manner as the legislature . . . may direct” (Art. II, sec. 1)

Originally, state legislatures chose electors (in most states)

Now electors chosen in popular elections in each state (November)

Political parties nominate competing slates of electors
• Voters choose (by plurality) which party’s electors will cast the state’s electoral votes for pres.
• Resulted in winner-take-all

NOT because the Constitution requires it, but

Because parties select party loyalists to be electors
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Absolute majority of electoral votes required to be elected

270 of 538 electoral votes

Electors cast votes in their respective state capitals (December)
• Each elector cast two votes: one vote for President; one vote for VP

Votes opened before a joint session of Congress (January)
• Vice President presides & announces results (current/outgoing VP)

If no candidate for Pres. has a majority of electoral votes, (newly elected) House elects the Pres.
• Each state has one vote
• Majority (26 votes) required to win
• Keep voting until someone gets 26

If no candidate for VP has a majority of electoral votes, (newly elected) Senate elects the VP
• Each Senator gets one vote
• Majority (51) required to elect VP
Video Lecture 7.2
Is the Electoral College Consistent with Democratic Principles?
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Electoral College Is NOT Consistent with Democratic Principles

The Framers did not intend for it to be democratic

Philosophical reasons
• Framers distrusted democracy
• Especially “majority tyranny”—feared ordinary citizens could be swayed by passions &

Practical reasons
• Slow transportation & communication in 17th & 18th centuries precluded national campaigns
• Ordinary citizens unlikely to know the qualifications & proposals of candidates from other
• Representation in the Constitution tied to States—each state gets two senators; states get
House seats
• Electors chosen by states—more knowledgeable about national candidates & make reasoned

As a result of the Electoral College design (i.e., based on states’ representation in Congress)

Always violates the democratic principle of political equality

Sometimes violates the democratic principle of majority rule

This occurs if the electoral college operates as intended, not because of fraud or corruption
The Non-problem of “Faithless” Electors

Rarely Happens—only 18 cases

Until 2016 (total of 7)
• 4 Clinton electors in WA: 3 Colin Powell, 1 Faith Spotted Eagle
• 2 Trump electors in TX: 1 John Kasich, 1 Ron Paul; (1 Fiorina VP)
• 1 Clinton elector in HI: Bernie Sanders

Never changed the outcome (so far)

Most states have laws requiring electors to vote for candidate they pledged to support

Speculation that such laws were unconstitutional
• What are they “unfaithful” to?
• Political parties not the Constitution
• Electors were intended to exercise independent judgment (some state laws recognize this)
• SCt ruled that states can enforce elector’s pledge in pres. Elects. (Chiafalo v. Washington, 2020)
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Why the Electoral College Violates Political Equality

Small states have disproportionate voting power in the Electoral College (Table 10.5)

Each vote does not have equal weight:


million votes cast (3.9×10−6)
million votes cast (7.1×10−8)
Election by the House violates political equality

And DC has no vote in the House
Why the Electoral College Does Not Guarantee Majority Rule

Electoral college has chosen popular vote loser 6 times
1824, 1876, 1888, 1960, 2000 & 2016

Why can the electoral college fail to choose popular vote winner?

NOT because of “faithless electors”

Large State bias
• Imagine a “deal” offered to a presidential candidate
• Guarantee to win any 11 states you choose, but (there’s a catch)
– You win each of those 11 states by just 1 vote more than opponent
– Your name wiped off the ballot in other 39 states (you get no votes other than the 1-vote
majority in your 11 states)

Should candidate take this deal?
• (Table 10.6) Yes, but only if you pick the 11 LARGEST states
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Table 10.6: How the Popular Vote Winner Can Lose in the Electoral College
Total Votes Cast in State
Votes Needed to Win State’s
Electoral Votes
New York
North Carolina
New Jersey
Subtotal for 11 Largest States
Percent of Total
Other 39 States

Small State bias (Bush in 2000)
How the Small State Bias Helped George Bush Win in 2000

Recall that small states have disproportionate voting power in the Electoral College

This small state bias can contribute to the popular vote winner losing in the electoral college

Think of popular votes in a state as currency that “buys” that state’s electoral votes
Gore won California:
5.9 million votes “bought” him 54 electoral votes

Bush won 13 of the 19 smallest states:
4.2 million votes from these 13 states “bought” him
54 electoral votes! (same # of Es at a 39% discount because small state EVs have more weight)
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Proposals to Reform the Electoral College

Direct Election

Tally votes nationally (each vote has equal weight regardless of where it was cast)

Majority or Plurality to be elected?
• President too important for plurality election; nation-wide runoff elect. btw top two is
burdensome & expensive
• Instant-runoff voting (IRV): voters rank cands.; if no majority, least cand. dropped; voters’ 2nd
choice transferred

Requires a Constitutional amendment to abolish electoral college
• “National Popular Vote Compact” attempts to skirt the Constitution (success unlikely)

Proportional Plan

Keep electoral college as is—majority of electoral votes required to win

Allocate state’s electoral votes in proportion to popular vote in the state

Any state can adopt this plan: appoint electors “in such manner as the legislature . . . may direct” (Art. II)
• Discussed in some states, but no state has adopted this reform
• Adoption unlikely—dilutes state’s power

District Plan

Keep electoral college as is—majority of electoral votes required to win

Tally popular votes in each House district & statewide

Candidate gets one electoral vote for each House district won

Candidate w/ most votes statewide gets state’s other 2 votes

Any state can adopt this plan on its own initiative
• Framers of Constitution assumed electors would be elected by district

Currently two states use this system: Nebraska (since 1996); Maine (since 1972)

2008 Nebraska divided electoral votes: McCain 4; Obama 1 (map)
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2016 Maine divided electoral votes: Clinton 3; Trump 1 (map)
Which reform achieves majority rule? Which does worst? (Table 10.7)
Table 10.7: Winner of the Presidency under Different Electoral College Reforms
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Proportional Plan—worst record of resolving conflict w/ majority rule
• Also worst record achieving political equality, b/c it is most likely to send election to House

District Plan
• Not much better than Proportional Plan
• Obama likely would have lost re-election in 2012 even with a majority of votes

Direct election
• Only reform that can achieve majority rule & political equality
• Winner-take-all is NOT the reason electoral college fails to achieve majority rule & political
• Any electoral system that aggregates popular votes within states to award electoral votes to
candidates (either proportionally or WTA) can deny victory to the popular choice for president
Why is American Democracy a Two-Party System?
There are some key points to understand about the two-party system to know our
electoral system’s limitations and advantages and how it influences our society. One important
thing to further understand is the differences between the republican party and the democratic
party. Many people refrain from voting on election day, which may be caused by a faulty party
system that requires restructuring. Understanding the minority parties and their purpose for
elections is essential to comprehend the election process completely.
Also, understanding the issues that arise from having moderate parties will enable an
individual to take an educated stance on what type of party would be fairer for the people and
their right to vote. Identifying whether the two-party system is the culprit for many issues we
experience during the election process is vital to finding solutions to these issues. The more one
understands the implications of having a republican leader versus a democratic leader, the more
one will find be able to recognize the party that will uphold their values and needs. Whether you
agree or disagree with the two-party system, it may be beneficial to research what would need to
happen for the United States to end this system and opt for another. In this case, knowing which
system may be more beneficial for the country will prepare one for advocating for it using
evidence-based arguments.
Source: Drutman, L. (2018). Government: Why America’s 2-party system is on a
collision course with our constitutional democracy. Retrieved 12 October 2020,
Question 1
How do you think the voting system in the U.S. could
be improved?
The United States has recorded low voter turnout compared to other developed countries
in the past elections. Most Americans do not vote during non -presidential elections. Although
voting is not mandatory in the U.S., the voting system can be improved in the country to
influence more numbers during all elections. Most of the citizens are discouraged by the
restrictive voting laws like limited voting periods and photo I.D. mandates. The laws in some
states affect all parties, which reduce the number of competitive interest and races. The
electorates end up choosing not to participate in an election. America has invested a lot to
increase the voter turnout, but the figures are still low. Besides, Americans vote based on their
state’s competitiveness in the races between the two parties, Democrats and Republicans. In my
opinion, the country is highly affected by COVID-19, and having a self-distance from others,
many people will not vote in the November polls. Lines are usually too long, and it will be
challenging to maintain social distancing with too long lines.
Source: Regan, M. (2016). Why is voter turnout so low in the U.S. Retrieved 12
October 2020, from,
Question 2
How will voting be affected by the Covid-19
The United States presidential elections are scheduled for November this year. Some
places are still under lockdown, and voting will be difficult than before. Americans will have to
switch to in-person voting, which is highly challenging. President Trump criticized the plans to
expand postal voting in the polls as he believes there may be voter fraud. With the pandemic, we
expect an increase in the number of casted votes by post from different states. People must avoid
large gatherings, and during the election day, we may have so many people coming out to vote.
Individual states have started to increase postal voting to preserve the Covid-19 protocols.
The pandemic will not allow voting by post for all people. Only people with special
reasons like older people and sick people will be allowed to cast their votes by post. The others
will use postal ballots and drop them off on election day. The pandemic may make people vote
more than once using in person or absentee ballots to vote from home.
Source: Reality Check team (2020). U.S. election: Do postal ballots lead to voting
fraud? Retrieved 12 October 2020, from
Why is voting third party seen as “throwing away”
your vote?
I have heard that voting third party means that you essentially are throwing away your
vote. I understand that there is virtually no chance of a candidate outside of the
Democratic or Republican party, but aren’t voters encouraged to vote for their
candidate? If a voter doesn’t like either candidate of the two major parties, why should
they vote for them? I think discouraging voters from voting third party is not productive
and can hurt political discourse. Voting third party is often considered “protest vote”
and I believe voters that vote third party are completely entitled to choose not voting
for either candidate if they do not like either one.
If we have an electoral college for the presidential
election, do you think we should also have one for
Everybody debates the presidential election because everyone has their opinion on the
electoral college. I find it interesting that they think it is necessary to have a backup plan
for when voters choose someone who might not be fit to lead the executive branch.
That backup plan being the electoral college. Why would it not also be necessary to
have a backup plan for people running for office in the legislative branch who will
literally be making the laws that could affect our everyday lives? The answer is likely that
one house representative with bad intentions would get offset by the other 434
representatives, but wouldn’t it be safer to have the electoral college for them too if
they find it necessary for the president?

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