The Electoral Map
A nominee needs
a majority of the electoral votes to win the presidency. You'll
notice, on election night, that the TV commentators keep track of
the states each nominee wins. They add up the number of electoral
votes that each state win represents. The race is over as soon as
one of the nominees gets one more than half, or 270, of the total
of electoral votes.
By the end of
election night or early the next morning, the nation usually knows
the winner of the election. The president is not officially elected
until the members of the Electoral College cast their state's votes
in December, however, and Congress counts those votes on January
There were just
13 states and only 69 electoral votes when George Washington was
elected. Our nation has grown a lot since then. Today there are
538 electoral votes, but the number of electoral votes for each
state is still determined the way it was in Washington's day. The
Constitution allows each state to have as many electoral votes as
it has representatives in Congress. The size of the state's population
is the basis for the number of representatives. No state has fewer
than three electoral votes. This is because each state has two senators
and at least one representative in the House of Representatives.
At the beginning of every
decade, every ten years, the government takes a census to determine
the population of each state. It might lose electoral votes if a
state's population has decreased. It may receive more electoral
votes than it previously had if a state's population has increased.
The most recent electoral map was drawn up after the 2000 census.
Many have criticized
the Electoral College system over the years. Although some attempts
to change it have been successful, two important criticisms still
remain unanswered. First, there is no guarantee that an elector
who is pledged to vote for a certain candidate will actually do
so. Only a few electors have switched their vote, and none changed
the outcome of an election. The winner-take-all system is the second
criticism. By getting just one more popular vote that the opponent,
a nominee can get all of a state's electoral votes. As a result,
three nominees have been elected president even though their opponents
received more popular votes nationally.
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