SPECIAL COVERAGE: ‘College’ class

A look at the Electoral College … and how it could change

By Lacey Berig
Special to the Southeast Express

The Electoral College has become controversial. The National Archives and Records Administration website says, “The Electoral College is a process, not a place.” It is a process whose validity has been questioned over the years.

Colorado is at the forefront of political change with regards to the Electoral College. The state Legislature this year committed the state to the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact (NPVIC), which seeks to simplify the election process. Colorado voters in November 2020 will have the final say as to whether the state should commit its electors to the national popular vote or the state winner, according to Secretary of State Jena Griswold’s office.

“I think it forces candidates to pay attention to all of the states, instead of ignoring the solidly red or blue states,” Joy Garscadden, operations manager of the Citizens Project said of the NPVIC. “By making the 270 electoral votes tied to the winner of the national popular vote, it ensures that the person who wins the presidency is elected by all of the states, not just the swing states.”

“The … compact doesn’t abolish the Electoral College. It is merely an agreement among states equaling a majority of electoral votes, to award their electoral votes to the national winner.” — Joy Garscadden, operations manager of Citizens Project.

How it works

The Electoral College is made up of 538 electors, equal to the number of U.S. lawmakers. For a president to be elected, he or she must win at least 270 of the electoral votes, a majority of the total.

“The original intent of the Electoral College” said Rick Foster, chairman of political science at Pikes Peak Community College, “was to ensure that the president would be chosen by neither the legislature nor the people.”

How electors are chosen varies by state. Each begins the process with three votes, regardless of size. Electoral votes are then added based on the state’s population.

In Colorado, electors are picked by each party to represent the state in presidential selection, based on the state’s popular vote. The National Archives and Records Administration explains that in this way voters are not only electing a president but also the electors who will cast the state’s ballots.

“The Electoral College was to be comprised of men of excellence from the various state,” Foster said, “These excellent citizens would meet in their state capitols and proceed to select the nation’s most outstanding citizen to become the president.”

Protestors call on the Electoral College to opt against voting for Donald Trump in this 2016 photo. He is one of two in recent memory to lose the popular vote but win the Electoral College and, thus, the presidency. [Rena Schild/Shutterstock.com]

Why it matters, today

The controversy surrounding the Electoral College arises when the electoral votes outweigh those of the national popular vote. This happened twice in recent memory: during the 2000 George W. Bush/Al Gore election and again in 2016, Donald Trump vs. Hillary Clinton. In both cases, the Democratic hopefuls — Gore and Clinton — earned more popular votes overall but lost the Electoral College, and the presidency, to their Republican challengers.

Hence, the popular vote compact.

According to the NPVIC website, 196 electoral votes were pledged as of Oct. 15. That means with 74 more fully committed, the presidential race would be determined by the nation’s popular vote.

“And to be clear, the … compact doesn’t abolish the Electoral College” Garscadden said. “It is merely an agreement among states equaling a majority of electoral votes, to award their electoral votes to the national winner.”



Editor’s note:
With the election fast approaching, the Express teamed with second-year publishing students at Pikes Peak Community College on a special project examining many facets of voting. The students heard from City Councilor Yolanda Avila, State Rep. Tony Exum and State Sen. Pete Lee, about the importance of voting and participation, and assisted in nonpartisan voter-education and engagement efforts. These student-reported stories look at several voting-related issues — and why some voters may or may not participate in the process.
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