With Election Day 2016 just 16 days away, and early voting already well underway around our nation, it’s time for my quadrennial refresher on the Electoral College.
I come neither to praise nor to pillory this curious concoction. It has been both revered and reviled ever since it was created during the 1787 Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia.
Instead, I will gently remind my legions of attentive readers of the genesis of the Electoral College and how it works, warts and all.
How to pick the president was one of many controversial compromises finally agreed upon by the convention. This issue was discussed in detail and hotly debated. Three proposals were considered in one form or another. First, should Congress select the president? The consensus was “No.” This would make the president a “creature of Congress.” Second, should the state legislatures pick the president? “No.” This would make the president “too beholden to the big states,” like Virginia and Pennsylvania. Third, should the people elect the president directly? Again, “No.” This option was roundly rejected as being too radical, ergo, too risky at the time.
So, the convention finally settled on picking the president indirectly by “electors” from each of the states.
Here is how the electoral votes for president are allocated. Each state gets “electors,” based on its total number of U.S. House of Representatives members, plus its two U.S. Senators. For example, our most populous state, California, has 55 electoral votes. Texas has 39, Tennessee has 11, and so on.
The total number of Electoral College votes nationwide is 538, derived from 435 U.S. House members and 100 U.S. Senators, plus 3 electors granted by Constitutional Amendment XXIII to the District of Columbia. The magic number for winning the White House is 270 electoral votes. Get that many and a candidate is “in like Flynn. Get anything less and he or she is “out like gout.”
Like it or not, the Electoral College remains the means granted by our Constitution to vote indirectly for President of the United States. Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton knows that and so does Republican candidate Donald Trump.
The gamble for Clinton is to “know when to hold ‘em and know when to fold ‘em.” If she can hold on to the 28 “blue states” and D.C. won by President Obama in 2012, she will garner 332 electoral votes -- 62 more than she needs to clinch the victory.
The challenge for Trump is to hold on to the 22 “red states” won by Mitt Romney in 2012 for a total of 206 electoral votes, then pick up 64 more from some of the “swing states.”
Right now, most of the polls tend to favor Clinton over Trump. However, these polls are volatile. Remember, the only polls that really count will come when we the people cast our votes, albeit indirectly, for President of the United States.
Retired Army Col. Thomas B. Vaughn can be reached at email@example.com.