Strange, is Electoral College

Not being an American citizen I have been struggling for years to understand the Electoral College system. I have read many explanations and watched any number of YouTube vids but my cynicism still keeps whispering ‘something isn’t right’. It seems as if the whole democratic process comes down to unelected, nameless, faceless, state representatives who are ultimately unaccountable.

I understand that each of the states is apportioned a number of representatives to the College. And I fully understand that it is a system to balance out overall influence in the election result between small and large population differences between states. And I while I understand that even if a presidential candidate wins the popular vote they might still lose (as happened in 2016) if their opponent manages to acquire 270 college votes or more.

One question is basically how are those College representatives for each state selected?
The problem that keeps bothering me is these reps are not elected by the public, and there does not seem to be any transparency as to who they are or their politics, or accountability for the reasoning for them to allocate votes for any candidate. I admit to being a dummy, that’s why I am asking.

Secondly, are the college reps capable at all of allocating their state’s vote absolutely free of their own political agenda?
I assume this is taken care of within the Constitution but beause the topic is ‘politics’ I maintain a healthy cynicism.
Again, Can it be completely assumed that the College votes that saw Trump take office be accepted as being totally free of influence from the evangelical right, or the extreme wealthy right wing or even the Russians?

I just can’t get away from the thought the College can hijack the election.

Thanks for my education in advance.

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Each state is allowed to select them in their own way. Often times it works (more or less) like this:

  1. In the state in question, each presidential candidate picks of a full set of prospective electors (one for each elector in the state, so between 3 and 55 depending loosely on population of the state in question).
  2. In this state, when you vote for a presidential candidate, what you are really doing is silently voting for that candidates full set of electors.
  3. This is where the winner take all nature of the system comes from. If you get 51% of the vote, you get 100% of the electors (a full set), so you effectively get 100% of the vote.

And yes, it is ridiculous at best, imo.


Most americans have struggled as well. It is an ancient and outdated system. Tradition that is supposed to lead to “trust.” This trust has been increasingly subverted and taken advantage of.

Back when these rules were written or edited who voted and how was pretty radically different then it is today. The only people that were allowed to vote most of the time was wealthy, educated, white landowners. And their numbers were not large. Without modern communication tools, people needed an “electorate” that spoke for them, usually the most “trusted” person around, to go and actually “vote” in person. in one central location.

True, except technically they were elected, even if not formally. And it is done back at during “primaries” for each major party. And there is some accountability at this level, but it still a flawed system.

They are, it has happened before, but it is rare, and it can mean a whole world of hurt to the representative.

Gerrymandering in conjunction with this is scarily effective, both parties try to do it to each other. The process erodes the democratic process, and works to make peoples votes not mean much.

The current electoral system puts a handful of battleground states to decide US presidency, where the other 75+ percent ofthe population may as well not vote, (of course if none of them did, then their vote would actually matter!)

But in general, other then a few states like Florida, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and couple of others, you almost do not have to bother to vote for president, the states voting record very accurately predicts how the state is going to vote in upcoming elections. For instance there is probably 15 million republicans in the state of california, but they might as well not even bother to vote for their parties candidate, california has voted strongly democrat ever since the days of Reagan.

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American schools abandoned the teaching of civics decades ago. So it is not surprising that most Americans – and fewer non Americans – do not understand most of the details about how THEIR OWN government works.

America is built on the concept of FEDERALISM…The Constitution lays it out quite simply.

As such, voters do NOT elect the president…they elect local representatives and state senators (before the passage of our 17th amendment to The Constitution, each state legislature elected the senators).

As stated, under Federalism, individuals do NOT elect the president…THE STATES DO !!

Under the federal constitution, each state is apportioned a number of votes …and these votes are allotted by how many nationally elected folks serve in our national legislature…WHICH IN TURN, is determined by how THOSE are alloted.

Every state gets the votes of its two senators and the votes of however many House members ts has.

Finally…since, as show above, the STATES elect the president, THEY get to figure out who the “electors” will be, which is their right, under federalism.


Our Constitution has been amended more than two dozen times. If enough people want to, we can do it again to change the election process.

In the meantime…it’s time for Americans to quit whining (which is what most of us do best) about it, and get out there and support YOUR candidate.

I’m not allowed to vote for my candidate.

Not ours. A referendum is needed, with 51% of the votes. Keeping in mind the voting is mandatory in Australia.

We’re a young country, only being federated in 1901. Since that time, 44 referenda have been proposed. Eight have passed.

My state, South Australia made up for that a bit by being the first country in the world to give women full franchise.IE not just the right to vote, but the right to run for office. (1894)

Here there are two major parties and a few minor parties and a few independents. Of course, technically voters can vote for any registered candidate.

The problem is that the major parties elect their candidates , not the electorate. Once elected, such people MUST vote on party lines. IF they ‘cross the floor’ on a vote chances are they will lose their pre selection and may even be tossed out of their party. From-time-to-time there are conscience votes, but these are rare.

As far as I can tell, democracy in the sense of rule by the majority has never existed. not even in ancient Athens, where 2/3 of population could not vote (slaves and women)

Australian politics do not yet seem to be corrupt as US politics, but give us time.

Thank you to all who replied in a bid to educate me on US civics.
Thanks to vicillinden for that basic summary, and welcome to AR. The Constitution does not explain things as clearly as you do.

I think I got waylaid by the fact that the Electors had to actually vote after the general election in Washington(?), and this led me to the curious situation of ‘faithless electors’ voting despite vows of intention, as happened with Rand, Powell et al in 2016 in their bid to derail Trump. I have since read that such attempts have never succeeded. I see the College as an antiquated pre-internet process, but it must have been necessary for the late 1700s.

The Australian Constitution (1901) is also a federalist document and much was ‘borrowed’ from the US version, so there are similarities.

As Cranky has already pointed out we have two major parties (one of which is actually two minorities in an almost century old not-quite-happy coalition) and lesser minority parties and individuals.

We vote for parties within the current 151 federal electorates.
One cannot vote for the Prime Minister directly unless he is a candidate your specific electorate. Senators are elected in a separate poll by a system of proportional representation in each State.
We don’t have an electoral college, but run on a two party preferred system. However our electoral ballots can be somewhat large because they allow voters the option of following party peferences or the choice of directing preferences to other candidates in voter preferred order, if their prime candidate fails. The Federal election of 2013 is remembered as the “table cloth election” due to the very large number of hopefuls seeking election to the senate.


To effect a “fair and even” distribution of votes nationally, the borders of electorates are frequently modified according to the latest census numbers, which also leads to situations where the election winners gain the majority of electorates without securing the majority of the popular vote.

This is only just how I understand our federal system. Australian government and politics have never been a part of the Australian education system and consequently most Aussies have no idea how this country is run.
Aussies are pretty good at whining too and there are constant complaints and debates as to how the current Constitution should be amended or replaced.

I am curious, Nyarlathotep. To vote, or not to vote, is a fundamental US political right. Why is it you can’t vote for your candidate?
Are you being oppressed?

Bush narrowly won the 2000 election, with 271 electoral votes to Gore’s 266 (with one elector abstaining in the official tally)

If the LEAST populated state, Wyoming, with THREE ELECTORAL VOTES, had gone the other way…

Bush, with 268, would have LOST to Gore, with 269

Saying things like: “… where the other 75+ percent of the population may as well not vote…”
is silly.

California, population 40 million. Has not voted anything other than democrat president in 40 years, more recently by wide margins.
Same with New York, population 20 million. Strongly democrat.

Except wait… it gets worse! The list of states that are essentially no contest is so long, it is better to look at which states actually do matter in the presidential race.

Well there is ofcourse Florida. Where presidential candidates literally had family cheat for them.

Lets list the states that actually have a decent chance going eithir way. (At least 25% chance of an “upset.”) in this upcoming 20/20
Iowa, Georgia, Ohio, NC. arizona, florida, penns, wisconsin, minnesota, new hampshire.

Now lets add up the population of those states.

US population = 328 million.
Iowa = 3.1
Georgia, 10.6
Ohio, 11.7
NC. 10.5
arizona, 7.2
wisconsin, 5.8
minnesota, 5.6
new hampshire 1.4
FL = 21.5 mil
Penns 12.8 ml

=90.2 million out of 328 90.2/328 = 27.5 % of the population.

Hah my guess of 75% was surprisingly close. lets not forget that if you are under 18, not a full fledged citizen, do not have a mailing address, or in many states (like florida, the biggest population on the list.) cannot vote when in jail/prison.

And of course not all of these listed states are going to be necessarily close come nov 4th. These are just the states that have at least somewhat decent chance of going eithir way.

Because my candidate isn’t one of the pre-approved choices.


The way we work in Canada is each riding (district area, mine is the Lakeland) votes in the candidate to represent them at the federal level. Choices are usually between Conservative and Liberal, but NDP, Green Party and others can list, as well as independents… in the past, Alberta has voted in mostly Conservatives with some liberal ridings voting in their representative (Liberal). This last time Alberta went all Conservative reps

BC gets in a few “Green” party reps and Sask/MB will get in NDP - Quebec gets in their reps and their “Bloc” … actually we get in quite a mix…

Nice data…

But misses the point.

Then get involved in the “pre-approval” process…they’re called “primaries”.

The “pre-approval” process is controlled by two major parties, which systematically block other parties access to the process. And since I’m not a member of either of those two parties, I’m not allowed to vote in the primaries.

It is the natural consequences of winner take all systems.

Australia has preferential voting for registered candidates. See what you think of that.

Me? I’m not bothered.No matter for whom you vote, you always end up with a politician****

***Donald Trump is a ghastly exception.


Hahahahaha :joy: he makes politicians look good and yearn for the “good ole days”…

@vicillinden [quote=“vicillinden, post:13, topic:435”]
But misses the point.
What is your point then? That everyone should vote? I agree, but the fact remains for close to 75% of the population there is little reason to vote for one of the president based on big data.

Yair. People now see George W in a much better light. People were saying "We can’t possibly get a worse president than Dubya’’–and then along comes Donald.

Can’t help but wonder how historians will see the Trump Presidency. Not much of a stretch for me to think the US will probably do worse. When? Perhaps once climate change has become personally inconvenient for the affluent middle classes.


Your state requires X numbers of signatures to get your guy / gal on the ballot. Marshall the required number.

If not…write him / her in.

“Representative” government has meaning.