Framers’ Design for the Electoral College and Today

Time for Reform?

Lesson I.

Step 1. Introduction: What is the Electoral College? Why Should I Care?



You might think that when you’re old enough, you get to vote for the U.S. president. This is true, but in reality, you indirectly vote for the president. When you vote for your presidential candidate, you are voting to send a group of electors to your state capital to then vote for the president. Those electors are all chosen by the party that won the popular vote in your state. This group of electors is called the Electoral College. With all the states, plus the District of Columbia combined, there are 538 electors in the Electoral College. 

Why should you care about the Electoral College? Our American system is an experiment in self-government. That experiment is only successful when citizens are informed of the process of self-government, including elections, and hold the officials they choose to represent them accountable. 

In this lesson, you’ll learn:

  1. How the Electoral College works,
  2. Why the Framers in the 1787 Constitutional Convention created the Electoral College; 
  3. The Electoral College’s indirect connection to slavery; 
  4. Historical development of the winner-takes-all component of the Electoral College; 
  5. Current pros and cons of the modern Electoral College; and
  6. Possible reforms for the Electoral College. 

This lesson draws from the research platform Quill Project at Pembroke College, University of Oxford. To visit a curated collection highlighting every instance the Framers in the Constitutional Convention debated the office of the American President, visit this link:

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Lesson I. Step 1 of 7


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