US Senator Mike Rounds’ Weekly Column: The Electoral College a Vital Piece of our Constitution

Rounds Logo 2016 MikeRounds official SenateThe Electoral College a Vital Piece of our Constitution
By Senator Mike Rounds

The Electoral College was one of the most innovative concepts created by our Founding Fathers when they were setting up our young republic. Embedded in our Constitution, the Electoral College is the system for electing our president through a slate of ‘electors’ in each state, rather than by direct popular vote. It was carefully crafted to satisfy smaller states’ desire for greater representation while balancing popular sovereignty with our Founders’ fear of the tyranny of the majority. To win the presidency, a candidate must receive a majority of electoral votes.

The number of electors in each state is determined by the number of U.S. Representatives it has in Congress, plus two additional votes for each senator. Since South Dakota has two senators and one representative, we have three Electoral College votes. A state with a higher population, such as Texas, which has two senators and 36 representatives, would have 38 Electoral College votes. Today, the Electoral College is made up of 538 electors, including three electoral votes granted to the District of Columbia, which means a candidate must receive 270 electoral votes to win.

By guaranteeing each state—no matter the size—at least three electoral votes, minority rights are protected. It puts smaller states like South Dakota on more equal footing with larger states like New York and California, preventing candidates who may only have a regional appeal from running away with the election. This system encourages candidates to travel across the country to meet with Americans from small towns and big cities and from differing backgrounds and ideologies, since it is impossible to win 270 electoral votes if only one region of the country or one segment of the population supports you. If a candidate spent his or her time campaigning only in big cities or states with large populations, they could likely win the popular vote easily. But, winning the popular vote doesn’t win you the presidency.

Each state’s electors are nominated by political parties, usually at a state convention. Then, when we go to the polls in November, we are actually voting for electors based on party rather than the presidential and vice-presidential candidates listed on the ballot. It is not until well after Election Day that electors meet in their states to vote for the candidate their party represents and a candidate is officially declared the winner. Electoral votes are then counted by a joint session of Congress on January 6 of the year after the presidential election to confirm that the president-elect has the 270 votes necessary to win. This year, the Electoral College is expected to meet on December 19, 2016, to formally affirm Donald Trump as our 45th president to be sworn into office on January 20, 2017. 

When framing the Electoral College, our Founding Fathers wanted to prevent the tyranny of a majority by protecting minority rights in our presidential electoral system. Public sentiment toward the Electoral College will sway after each election, based on which party wins or loses. At the end of the day, our presidential election system is a brilliant concept, one that will continue to stand the test of time.


8 Replies to “US Senator Mike Rounds’ Weekly Column: The Electoral College a Vital Piece of our Constitution”

  1. Jaa Dee

    “The first reason that the founders created the Electoral College is hard to understand today. The founding fathers were afraid of direct election to the Presidency. They feared a tyrant could manipulate public opinion and come to power

    Hamilton and the other founders believed that the electors would be able to insure that only a qualified person becomes President. They believed that with the Electoral College no one would be able to manipulate the citizenry. It would act as check on an electorate that might be duped. Hamilton and the other founders did not trust the population to make the right choice. The founders also believed that the Electoral College had the advantage of being a group that met only once and thus could not be manipulated over time by foreign governments or others.”
    “Alexander Hamilton writes in “The Federalist Papers,” the Constitution is designed to ensure “that the office of President will never fall to the lot of any man who is not in an eminent degree endowed with the requisite qualifications.” The point of the Electoral College is to preserve “the sense of the people,” while at the same time ensuring that a president is chosen “by men most capable of analyzing the qualities adapted to the station, and acting under circumstances favorable to deliberation, and to a judicious combination of all the reasons and inducements which were proper to govern their choice.”

    The EC has not and will not do the duty intended by the Founders…

    1. enquirer

      you are going to find yourself in a nation full of people who find trump amazingly qualified at running the nation they desire to build, and you and your cohort will be left to mutter in your covens about the stupid duped majority that rejected your plan to make us a mere e-u adjunct.

  2. Just askin

    Lets see the current president was chosen by EC and that was all good, but the future president was chosen by the EC and that is bad. Double standard?

    1. Anonymous

      It’s not a double standard. The Electoral College is a bulwark against having a barely sentient cheeto becoming president. It’s a bulwark against the stupidity of the mob. It’s a bulwark against unqualified reality tv orangutans putting greasy fat fingers on the nuclear button – in ONE friggin’ phone call, he damn near nuked the world already, and he isn’t even the president yet. “I’d LOVE to visit Pakistan!” Good God. F*** this moron. The Electoral College has a moral duty to keep this degenerate imbecile as far from the Oval Office as possible.

      1. Anonymous

        Yeah the current occupant is doing much better just ask the people in Libya, Iraq, Egypt; Ukraine, Syria…oh wait never mind

  3. The Blogger Formerly Known as "Winston"

    The EC is the gift that keeps on giving….. First, “Dubya” and now the “The Donald”….. ( ? 🙁 ? )

    When history is written of how America began to decline as a super power in the 21st century, the elections of Bush43 and Trump will be the essence of that fact… and the essence will have been told as the “dead hand control” of an electoral college system which had no place or relevance in a 21st century America. An America that thought it believed in empowering more than just states, or southern land gentry versus northern speculators, because it thought it believed in and practiced the empowering of a growing pluralistic and democratic society.….