United States Electoral College
The United States Electoral College is the group of presidential electors required by the Constitution to form every four years for the sole purpose of appointing the president and vice president. Each state and the District of Columbia appoints electors pursuant to the methods described by its legislature, equal in number to its congressional delegation (representatives and senators). Federal office holders, including senators and representatives, cannot be electors. Of the current 538 electors, an absolute majority of 270 or more electoral votes is required to elect the president and vice president. If no candidate achieves an absolute majority there, a contingent election is held by the United States House of Representatives to elect the president, and by the United States Senate to elect the vice president.
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Currently, the states and the District of Columbia hold a statewide or districtwide popular vote on Election Day in November to choose electors based upon how they have pledged to vote for president and vice president, with some state laws proscribing faithless electors. All states except Maine and Nebraska use a party block voting, or general ticket method, to choose their electors, meaning all their electors go to one winning ticket. Maine and Nebraska choose one elector per congressional district and two electors for the ticket with the highest statewide vote. The electors meet and vote in December and the inauguration of the president and vice president takes place in January.
The appropriateness of the Electoral College system is a matter of ongoing debate. Supporters argue that it requires presidential candidates to have broad appeal across the country in order to win, while critics argue that it is not representative of the popular will of the nation when viewed without regard to the states.
Its implementation by the states may leave it open to criticism; winner-take-all systems, especially in populous states, may not align with the principle of "one person, one vote". Almost 10% of presidential elections under the system have not elected the winners of the nationwide popular vote.
Critics argue that the Electoral College system is less democratic than a direct popular vote and that the College violates the democratic principle of "one person, one vote." Thus, a president may be elected who did not win the national popular vote, as occurred in 1824, 1876, 1888, 2000, and 2016. Critics object to the inequity that due to the distribution of electors, individual citizens in states with smaller populations have proportionately more voting power than those in larger states. This is because the number of electors each state appoints is equal to the size of its congressional delegation, each state is entitled to at least three regardless of population, and the apportionment of the statutorily fixed number of the rest is only roughly proportional. In addition, faithless electors may not vote in accord with their pledge. Further objection is that instead of spending equally on each voter in the nation, candidates focus their campaigns on just a few swing states.