The Electoral College, explained

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if you watch the news during a

presidential election you'll hear a lot

of this

what do the national polls look like

hillary clinton's national league

nationally joe biden is currently ahead

but these national polls

don't actually tell you who's going to

win throw the national polls out the

window they

don't matter at all what matters are

those swing states

ah yes the swing states most democracies

around the world

elect their head of state with a popular

vote so whoever gets the most votes wins

but in america we do it a little


the us is the only country that picks

its president using something called the

electoral college

it's made up of delegates from each u.s

state when americans vote for president

what they're

actually voting for is who their state

will vote for

this is why every so often someone wins

the presidency without winning the

popular vote

that's happened twice in just the past

20 years

the majority of americans do not like

the system and

haven't for a long time both political

parties have made attempts to get rid of


so why does the u.s still use the

electoral college

and who actually benefits from it

the electoral college is based on how

people are represented in congress

where each state has a number of

representatives based on its population

and every state also gets two senators

so for example let's look at texas which

has a huge population

and vermont which has a really small one

texas has 36 representatives in congress

vermont only gets one representatives in

both states each represent roughly the

same number of people

in the electoral college a state gets

the same number of delegates as their

congressional representatives

plus two for each senator so texas has

38 electoral votes

vermont has three but this combination

makes the number of people each delegate

represents way different between states

in texas one electoral delegate

represents three times the amount of


as one in vermont and that makes each

individual person's vote in vermont

a lot more influential the electoral

college creates discrepancies like this

all over the country a voter in wyoming

is worth three and a half times as much

as a voter in california

and the winner of the presidential

election is the candidate who gets

270 or more of these electoral college



these are the results of the 2016

election by state

you're probably more familiar with this

version of it a map of red states and

blue states

but this chart tells a different story

you can see that no state is actually

all red or all blue but almost

every state awards its electoral votes

the same way

the candidate who gets the most votes in

a state gets all its electoral votes

if they win the state by one percent

they win a hundred percent of the

electoral votes

in 2016 more than four million people

voted for donald trump in california

in fact more people voted for him there

than in any other state

except for two but it didn't matter

hillary clinton got more votes there

so she got all 55 of its electoral votes

clinton never even campaigned in

california polling showed she'd easily

win the state

trump only visited texas once he knew

he'd basically had that state's

electoral votes locked

but they both visited florida 35 or more


that's because florida is usually a

swing state polls show that the vote

there could swing to one party or

another nearly every election

trump only won it in 2016 by 100 000


out of more than 9 million swing seats

have changed over time thanks to

shifting demographics and political


and it's states like these where

presidential candidates spend most of

their time campaigning

it also means these states have way more

influence over the election

than these ones a study found that

voters in michigan had

51 times the amount of influence on the

2016 election

as someone from a state like utah voters

in states like california or missouri

mattered very little swing states are

where the election

actually takes place they get the

attention and the influence

and they only exist because of the

electoral college

it doesn't seem very fair but the

electoral college has

always shifted power away from some

people and towards others

it was how it was designed back when

there were just a few states not

50 they had to get all the states to

agree on the constitution

one problem the northern states which

were largely anti-slavery wanted only

free people to count in the population

towards electoral votes

which they had more of the pro-slavery

southern states were worried that they

would be

constantly outvoted and wanted enslaved

people to count in determining the


as a compromise they settled on

something called the three-fist clause

it established that an enslaved person

would only count as

three-fifths of a person in 1800


northern state and virginia a southern

one had about the same number of free

people living there

but virginia was also home to hundreds

of thousands of enslaved people

who had no freedom let alone a vote and

ended up with

more votes in the electoral college than


that year those extra electoral votes

gave the candidate from virginia

just enough to win

even after the u.s finally abolished

slavery and eventually gave black

americans the right to vote

white southern leaders found ways to

keep them from voting

like with discriminating laws like poll

taxes and

acts of violence this meant they

continued to have over-representation in

the electoral college

on behalf of a large population that

couldn't vote

the first time congress attempted to

replace the electoral college with a

simple popular vote

was back in 1816 but senators from

southern states blocked it

saying it would be deeply injurious to

them in 1969

congress came even closer replacing the

electoral college had support in both


and even passed the house but it was

blocked again

by southern senators a senator from

alabama wrote the electoral college

is one of the south's few remaining

political safeguards

let's keep it why change a system that

historically had and

still was benefiting white southerners

today the states that the electoral

college benefits have changed

but it's still making some voters more

powerful than others

if we look at the states with a lot of

electoral votes for not a lot of people

and the states with a little electoral

votes for a lot of people

these states are a lot wider and less

diverse than the rest of america

and many of these states are republican


these tend to vote democratic that's one

reason the two most

recent republican presidents have won

the electoral college without winning

the popular vote

and since it's currently democrats that

are primarily disadvantaged by the

electoral college

they're the ones leading the charge to

replace it with a popular vote

get rid of the electoral college

but as politics have changed the people

most critical of the electoral college


two in the 1948 presidential election

new york ended up being the major swing


a congressman from texas said i have no

objection to the negro and harlem voting

but i do resent the fact that his vote

is worth a hundred times as much

as the vote of a white man in texas

swing states change

what doesn't is that the electoral

college gives certain people

more power to pick the president and its

biggest defenders

have always been those who benefit the

most from it


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