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Purple Project For Democracy: Different Takes On The Electoral College

Voting booths set up for a local election.
Voting booths set up for a local election.
Scott Olson/Getty Images

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The Electoral College was laid out in the Constitution in Article II, Section 1. Each state has as many electors as it has Representatives and Senators in Congress. So, when voters head to the polls to cast a ballot for President and Vice President of the U.S., they’re really voting for the electors.

The electors are then expected to cast their ballots in the Electoral College, and most states require that all electoral votes to be cast in favor of the candidate who receives more votes than any other candidate. The framers were apparently worried that voters would have a difficult time knowing who the candidates were, given the time period.

According to Time, the 12th Amendment cleared up the distinction between the electoral votes for President and Vice President, and the 23rd Amendment allowed Washington, D.C. to have electoral votes. There have been legal questions around whether states can restrict how electors vote. And there are other qualms with the Electoral College system as well, including claims of its racist roots. And some simply argue a national popular vote makes more sense. Others don’t feel the same, for example, arguing that killing the Electoral College would take away states’ power and hand it over to the federal government, which currently plays a secondary role in the process.

As part of our Purple Project for Democracy series, today on AirTalk, we look at the history of the Electoral College and discuss different takes on whether it should remain how it is or be thrown out for a new process. 


Garrett Epps, professor of constitutional law at the University of Baltimore, he’s the Supreme Court correspondent for The Atlantic, he tweets @Profepps

Robert M. Hardaway, professor of law at the University of Denver and author of “Saving the Electoral College: Why the National Popular Vote Would Undermine Democracy,” (ABC-CLIO, LLC, 2019)