Re­sults put new fo­cus on US Elec­toral Col­lege

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

WASH­ING­TON: The fact that Hil­lary Clin­ton most likely won the US pop­u­lar vote but won’t be pres­i­dent has some peo­ple won­der­ing, “Wait, why do we do it this way?” Thank - or blame - the Found­ing Fa­thers for cre­at­ing the pos­si­bil­ity of a so-called “diver­gent elec­tion” when they set up the Elec­toral Col­lege. A look at how and why the US se­lects its pres­i­dents this way:

ORI­GINS

The Elec­toral Col­lege was de­vised at the Con­sti­tu­tional Con­ven­tion in 1787. It was a com­pro­mise meant to strike a bal­ance be­tween those who wanted pop­u­lar elec­tions for pres­i­dent and those who wanted no pub­lic in­put. Alexan­der Hamil­ton wrote, “If the man­ner of it be not per­fect, it is at least ex­cel­lent.” At the time, the coun­try had just 13 states, and the founders were wor­ried about one state ex­er­cis­ing out­sized in­flu­ence, ac­cord­ing to a white pa­per from the US Elec­tion As­sis­tance Com­mis­sion. Small states were wor­ried that states with large pop­u­la­tions would have ex­tra sway. South­ern states with slaves who couldn’t vote wor­ried that North­ern states would have a louder voice. There were con­cerns that peo­ple in one state wouldn’t know much about can­di­dates from other states. The lo­gis­tics of a na­tional elec­tion were daunting. The think­ing was that if can­di­dates had to win mul­ti­ple states rather than just the pop­u­lar vote, they would have to at­tract broader sup­port.

HOW IT WORKS

The elec­toral sys­tem has been tweaked over the years, but the gist en­dures. The pres­i­dent is se­lected by a “col­lege” of 538 elec­tors from the states. Each state gets as many elec­toral votes as it has mem­bers of Congress, and the Dis­trict of Columbia gets three. To be elected pres­i­dent, the win­ner must get at least half the to­tal plus one or 270 elec­toral votes. Most states give all their elec­toral votes to whichever can­di­date wins the state’s pop­u­lar vote. So while Clin­ton is lead­ing Trump in votes na­tion­wide 47.7 per­cent to 47.5 per­cent, Trump’s to­tal in the Elec­toral Col­lege stands at 290, with races in Michi­gan and New Hamp­shire yet to be called. In 2000, Demo­crat Al Gore nar­rowly won the pop­u­lar vote but lost to Repub­li­can Ge­orge W. Bush in the Elec­toral Col­lege 271266. Over­all, there have been four such cases of diver­gent elec­tions.

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