The world woke up to the shocking presidential result early this morning as Donald Trump was announced the 45th president of the United States of America. The announcement has sent shockwaves around the globe as world leaders such as Vladimir Putin and Theresa May have sent their congratulations to the newly elected controversial president, whilst countries such as China are yet to respond to Trump’s victory. The Electoral College is key to understanding how the race between the two candidates from the East to the West coast took an unexpected turn in last night’s events.
Unlike any other democratic voting system, the United States has set up a method of an indirect popular election through a unique political institution called the Electoral College. This system allows the people of America to not vote directly for their presidential candidate, rather they vote for the electors that are state officials or senior party figures- who are previously nominated by a political party. The Electoral College is composed of 538 electors who are elected by the people nationally, who represent the state and then go on to cast their votes for the future president and vice president. According to the Constitution, the number of electors in each state is proportionate to the combined total of the state’s senate and House Representatives, the number of electors can vary in each state from 3 to 55. The most populous state of California has 55 votes, whilst the least densely populated states such as Wyoming and Washington DC only get three each.
The candidate with the most electors will win all the state's Electoral College votes apart from Maine and Nebraska that use the proportional representation system instead, and finally the candidate who is able to obtain the most Electoral College votes and reach the 270 electoral votes is elected to office. Therefore, the American election is based on who wins in which states, rather than who wins the most votes across the states. However, in recent history during the presidential campaigns problems occur when a candidate loses Electoral College vote but wins the popular vote which has happened four times. Most notably the 2000 elections where Al Gore won the majority by 540,000 more votes, but Bush won the Electoral College of 271 to 266 making him the 43rd president. As a result, the Electoral College is the battleground for running presidential campaigns, before the two candidates rely on their ‘safe’ states such as California already announcing Clinton’s victory a couple of hours before the polling stations were closed.
The events within the last twenty four hours have really changed the political discourse of the Electoral College, as Donald Trump expanded his pathway from the East to the West coast by winning 20 electoral votes from the support of traditionally democratic states such as Pennsylvania-which has not supported the Republican Party since 1988. Many predicted Clinton’s victory as she was well ahead of race by earning 206 Electoral College votes, whilst Trump was well behind with just 164 just a week ago. As Hillary gained New York and parts of the East coast, her journey to the West was abruptly stopped by Trump who unexpectedly won the College votes half way through her journey. Trump managed to gain the crucial Electoral College votes from major states such as Wisconsin and Michigan- states that were won by Barack Obama in 2012- which resulted in Trump reaching the 270 mark.
During the presidential race, states such as the California and Texas are largely ignored due to their deep-rooted political affiliation to a specific party, as California has always been strongly democratic and Texas being a republican state. Instead of focusing around the politically embedded states, presidential candidates tend to focus on states called the ‘swing states’, meaning states that has no loyalties to a particular party and has the potential to be swayed to either being democratic or republican. According to the most recent public polls, there were about a dozen ‘swing states’ candidates were trying to entice, that includes Florida, Iowa, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Virginia and Wisconsin. It is these ‘crown jewel’ states that have the power to determine the next president of the United States. Trump’s victory narrows down to winning the support of the swing states such as Ohio, Michigan New Hampshire, and most astonishingly Florida which is an ethnically diverse state, whose voters had not reacted well to Trumps comments on immigration.
Why was the Electoral College established?
The Electoral College was created in Article II, Section 1 of the US Constitution in 1787 as a fair geographical electoral system, seeing that the size of America would create an unequal voting power to the more populous states. Therefore, a balance of power was established between the smaller states and the larger states, the constitution prevent any process of political manipulation by the larger states. Another reason for the creation of the Electoral College was to establish a stable and democratic nation; the founding fathers feared the direct popular votes from the people would create chaos to their proudly independent country, as there were fears over the possibility of a power-hungry tyrant who would abuse the rights of other citizens and the nation itself. Hence a compromise was made between the founding fathers and the people of America by voting for the officials who were more responsible to elect a qualified president. The idea that Electoral College in the 18th century would act as an extra barrier between the people and its president and would ensure the right candidate was selected through congress rather than an oppressor; we can safely say this protective political barrier is almost impractical. Many are amazed at how far Trump has come, especially from last night’s events as many of the states had swapped sides. Trump’s extreme views on typecasting and excluding many of the ethnic minority groups, in addition to his misogynist comments and actions had shocked the America, yet it is these scandalous comments that have earned him the seat in office. A newly elected president that is the antithesis of what America’s founding fathers hoped for, a disunited America.
© Chambers of Lawrence Power