In 1787 the Founding Fathers met at the Constitutional Convention, and the electoral college was born. The now-kinda-outdated-but-we're-in-too-deep voting practice selects the election winner not through the popular vote but by the electoral vote. Which means the candidate who was the most popular in that state gets all the electoral votes for that state (with the exception of Maine and Nebraska).
Each state has a different number of electors: California has 55, but North Carolina has 15. When you add all up the states and their electors, the total equals 538 electors in all—but how many of their votes do you need for the election?
The answer: It takes 270 or more electoral votes to win a presidential election.
Back in 2016, Donald Trump won with 304 electoral votes, despite the fact Hillary Clinton famously won the popular vote. It was the fifth time in American history that the presidential election winner lost the popular vote.
It's important to note, however, that while a projected winner is usually announced on election night in November after you vote, the actual Electoral College vote takes place in mid-December when the electors meet in their states. So while you may hear one thing in November, the official announcement of who won the election won't come until later.
Now, if so many people think the practice is outdated, why haven't they got rid of it yet? Since the practice is listed in the U.S. Constitution, it would take a constitutional amendment to change the process, meaning it has to be approved by a two-thirds vote of both houses.
While in today's political environment, that seems highly unlikely, there's one time in the past when it got close. In 1969, the U.S. House of Representatives voted by 338 to 70 to send a constitutional amendment to the Senate that would have dismantled the Electoral College—but just a year later, it was shot down by the Senate.
Even same-party members have different views on abolishing the Electoral College. Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden doesn't support eliminating the Electoral College, but his Democratic vice-presidential candidate Kamala Harris thinks differently.
Harris told Jimmy Kimmel, "I'm open to the discussion. I mean, there's no question that the popular vote has been diminished in terms of making the final decision about who's the president of the United States and we need to deal with that."
Regardless of the Electoral College, every vote counts. If you're not registered to vote, sign up here.
'The Office' Star Brian Baumgartner Shares His Favorite Timeless Reads
'The Office' star gave us a peek inside his library for MC's 'Shelf Portrait' series.
By Marie Claire •
Sephora's Black Friday Deals: Your 2021 Guide
In preparation for the sale, we're rounding up our favorite products.
By Rachel Epstein •
Prince William's Feud With the BBC Is Escalating, Insiders Claim
He is not happy right now.
By Iris Goldsztajn •
Cory Booker and Rosario Dawson's Relationship Is No More
After three years of dating, the power couple have decided they're better off as friends.
By Marie Claire Editors •
Education for Women and Girls Is Crucial for Climate Justice
In an excerpt from her new book, A Bigger Picture, Ugandan climate activist Vanessa Nakate discusses the impact educated African women and girls can have on solving the climate crisis.
By Vanessa Nakate •
It’s Time to End Equal Pay Days and Pass the Equal Rights Amendment
The passage of the ERA is a chance for our country to prove it truly values women.
By Hala Ayala •
In Conversation: Secretary Jennifer Granholm and Emily Tisch Sussman
“It’s ridiculous that we’re the only advanced nation on the planet that doesn’t help families with childcare.”
By Emily Tisch Sussman •
EMILY's List President Laphonza Butler Has Big Plans for the Organization
Under Butler's leadership, the largest resource for women in politics aims to expand Black political power and become more accessible for candidates across the nation.
By Rachel Epstein •
Anita Hill Believes We Can End Gender Violence
Three decades after her landmark testimony in the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings, the esteemed professor and lawyer has a message for leaders: The time is now to prioritize anti-gender violence policies.
By Rachel Epstein •
For Teachers, Going to Work Can Mean Life or Death
Stefanie Minguell, a COVID survivor and second grade teacher in Florida's Broward County, almost died of COVID-19 and is immunocomprised. When she teaches in the classroom, she’s forced to choose between her health and her students.
By Megan DiTrolio •
Periods Don’t Stop for Pandemics—And Neither Have Our Nation’s Moms
Policies touted in the $3.5 trillion budget plan and other Congressional bills are missing a core component of maternal well-being: menstrual access and health.
By Christy Turlington Burns •