Becoming a Candidate
Every four years, on the
Tuesday following the first Monday of November, millions of U.S.
citizens go to local voting booths to elect, among other officials, the
next president and vice president of their country. Their votes
will be recorded and counted, and winners will be declared. But
the results of the popular vote are not guaranteed to stand because the
Electoral College has not cast its vote.
The Electoral Colldge is a controversial mechanism of presidential
elections that was created by the framers of the U.S. Constitution as a
compromise for the presidential election process. At the time,
some politicians believed a purely popular election was too reckless,
while others objected to giving congress the power to select the
president. The compromise was to set up an Electoral College
system that allowed
voters to vote for electors, who would then cast their votes for
candidates, a system described in Article 11, section 1 of the
Each state has a number of electors equal to the number of its U.S.
Senators plus the number of its U.S. Representatives. Currently
the Electoral College includes 538 electors, 535 for the total number
of congressional members, and three who represent Washington, D.C., as
allowed by the 23rd Amendment. On the Monday following the second
Wednesday in December, the electors of each state meet in their
respective state capitals to officially cast their votes for president
and vice president. These votes are then sealed and sent to the
president of the Senate, who on January the 6th opens and reads the
votes in the presence of both houses of congress. The winner is
sworn into office on January 20th.
Most of the time, electors cast thier votes for the candidate who has
received the most votes in that particular state. Some states
have laws that require electors to vote for the candidate that won the
popular vote, while other electors are bound by
pledges to a specific political party. However, there have been
times when electors have voted contrary to the people's decision,
and there is no federal law or Constitutional provision against it.
In most presidential elections, a candidate who wins the popular vote
will also receive the majority of the electoral votes, but this is not
always the case. There have been four presidents who have won an
election with fewer
popular votes than their opponent but more electoral votes.
Here are the four elections when the candidate who led the popular vote
did not win the office:
Today, a candidate must
receive 270 of the 538 votes to win the election, so George W. Bush won
the 2000 election by one electoral vote. In cases where no
candidate wins a majority of electoral votes, the decision is thrown to
the House of Representatives by virtue of the 12th Amendment. The
House then selects the president by majority vote with each state
delegation receiving one vote to cast for the three candidates who
received the most electoral votes.
- 1824: John
Quincy Adams received more than 38,000 fewer votes than Andrew Jackson,
but neither candidate won a majority of the Electoral College.
Adams was awarded the presidency when the election was thrown to the
House of Representatives.
- 1876: Nearly
unanimous support from small states gave Rutherford B. Hayes a one-vote
margin in the Electoral College, despite the fact that he lost the
popular vote to Samuel J. Tilden by 264,000 votes. Hayes carried
five out of the six smallest states (excluding Delaware).
These five states plus Colorado gave Hayes 22 electoral votes with only
109,000 pupular votes. At the time, Colorado had just been
admitted to the Union and decided to appoint electors instead of
holding elections. So Hayes won Colorado's three electoral votes
with zero popular vote. It was the only time in U.S. history that
small state support has decided an election.
- 1888: Benjamin
Harrison lost the popular vote by 95,713 votes to Grover Cleveland, but
won the electoral vote by 65. In this instance, some say the
Electoral College worked the way it is designed to work by preventing a
candidate from winning an election based on support from one region of
the country. The South overwhelmingly supported Cleveland, and he
won by more than 425,000 votes in six southern states. However,
in the rest of the country he lost by more than 300,000 votes.
- 2000: Al Gore
had over half a million votes more than George W. Bush, with 50,992,
335 votes to Bush's 50,455,156. But after recount controversy in
Florida and a U.S. Supreme court ruling, Bush was awarded the state by
537 popular votes. Like most states, Florida has a "winner take
all" rule. This means that the candidate who wins the state by
popular vote also gets all of the state's electoral votes. Bush
became president with 271 electoral votes.
has 11 Electoral Votes.