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True or False. The Candidate with the most votes is always elected president. Answer: Not necessarily. Just ask Al Gore. The 2000 Election. The Popular Vote Al Gore 50,996,039 George W. Bush 50,456,141 The Electoral Vote George W. Bush 271 Al Gore 267 So who was the winner?.

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true or false
True or False

The Candidate with the most votes is always elected president.

Answer: Not necessarily. Just ask Al Gore.

the 2000 election
The 2000 Election

The Popular Vote

  • Al Gore 50,996,039
  • George W. Bush 50,456,141
  • The Electoral Vote
  • George W. Bush 271
  • Al Gore 267

So who was the winner?

understanding the electoral college

Does Your Vote Count?

Understanding the Electoral College

the difficult question
The Difficult Question
  • How to elect the president fairly in a nation that:
    • Was composed of 13 large and small states all wanting to have equal power.
    • Contained only 4,000,000 people spread up and down a thousand miles of Atlantic seaboard.
    • Believed that political parties were mischievous if not downright evil.
    • Did not believe that the people would always make the best choice for the country.
historical background
Historical Background
  • The framers of the Constitution disagreed on how to elect a president—congressional selection or direct popular election.
  • The electoral college was a compromise, combining features of both approaches.
    • How much power the people should have
    • How much power small and large states should have.

Former method of electoral college (changed by 12th Amendment)

    • Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr each had the same number of electoral votes (73)
    • Tie would go to the House of Representatives and each state gets one vote, still have to get a majority

Election of 1860 Popular Votes Electoral

Lincoln 1, 866,352 180

Douglas 1,375,157 12

Breckenridge 847,953 72

Bell 589,581 39


Close Elections in History

Popular Votes Electoral Votes

Hayes (1876) 4,033,950 185

Tilden (1876) 4, 284,855 184

Bush (2000) 50,456, 169 271

Gore (2000) 50, 996, 116 266

  • Clause 4 - When does the Electoral College vote?
    • Official ballot for President is cast by the Electoral College
    • Electoral College—cast votes on the first Monday after the second Wednesday in December
  • Each state is entitled to as many electoral votes as the sum of its representation in the U.S. House and Senate
  • Texas: 32 House members plus 2 senators = 34 electoral votes
  • Arkansas: 4 House members plus 2 senators = 6 electoral votes
  • Total: 435 House members plus 100 senators plus 3 electors for the District of Columbia
  • A combined total of 538 Electors
voters and electors
Voters and Electors

A Texan who votes for Bush is really voting for a slate of electors pledged to cast the state’s electoral votes for Bush. In 2000, Bush won all of Florida’s 25 electoral votes because the final official vote tally showed him ahead of Gore by about 600 votes.

so who wins
So Who Wins?
  • To win, a candidate needs a majority, that is, 270 electoral votes.
  • If no candidate has a majority, the House selects the president from among the three presidential candidates with the most electoral votes. Each state delegation has one vote. This last happened in 1824 when Congress chose John Quincy Adams over Andrew Jackson and William Crawford.
  • The Senate selects the vice president from the top two vice-presidential candidates.
can the loser of the popular vote still win the election
Can the loser of the popular vote still win the election?

In a close race, the popular vote winner may not win the electoral college. One candidate may win states by lopsided margins while the other wins states by narrow margins. One candidate may benefit from winning most of the smaller states, which benefit from the small-state bias caused by each state getting at least three electoral votes regardless of its size.

Electoral vote winners who lost the popular vote

  • Bush over Gore in 2000
  • Benjamin Harrison over Grover Cleveland in 1888
  • Rutherford B. Hayes over Samuel Tilden in 1876

So, which states have the most pull in the elections.

A Look at the 2000 Election

criticisms of the electoral college
Criticisms of the Electoral College
  • The popular vote winner may lose the presidency.
  • Electors may vote for persons other than their party’s presidential and vice presidential candidates.
  • If no candidate receives a majority, Congress would pick the president and vice president.
what do you think
What do you think?

270 To Win

  • Use this web site to
    • Determine the winner of the 2004 Presidential Election
    • See the outcomes of past elections
Yes, your vote counts. Some people have complained since 2000 that if the winner of the popular vote doesn't become president, their vote doesn't really count, so why vote at all? But every vote does count; it just counts in a more complicated way. When you vote for president, remember that you're voting in a state election, not a national election. So your vote counts just as much as anyone else's in your state — but it may count more or less than that of someone living in another state!
discussion question
Discussion Question

How does the electoral college impact candidate strategy in presidential election campaigns?