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Electoral college

votes president candidate popular

Electoral college, body elected by popular vote that in turn elects the president and vice president of the United States. The college was conceived as a compromise between direct popular elections and rule by appointment or inheritance. The voters of each state choose electors (whose names often do not appear on the ballot) by indicating their choice for president and vice president. The winning party's electors then cast the state's votes for the candidates chosen. Each state has as many votes in the college as the total number of its senators and representatives. If no candidate receives a majority of electoral votes, the House of Representatives elects the president from among the top 3 candidates. This happened twice in U.S. history, in the elections of Thomas Jefferson (1800) and John Quincy Adams (1824). The winning candidate in each state receives all that state's electoral votes, regardless of the proportion of popular votes won. Thus it is possible for the losing presidential candidate to receive more popular votes than the winning candidate. This happened when John Quincy Adams defeated Andrew Jackson (1824); when Rutherford B. Hayes defeated Samuel Tilden (1876); and when Benjamin Harrison defeated Grover Cleveland (1888). Despite dissatisfaction with this shortcoming, the institution survives.

See also: Election.

Electoral Commission [next] [back] Election campaign

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