Students Guide to the Electoral College: What it is, How it works, and Why You Should Care

By Faith Crossan, Staff Writer

With the presidential election rapidly coming to a close, people have a heightened interest in politics: specifically surrounding the election. The electoral college plays a huge role in the presidential election, as it is the determining factor of who the next president will be. While the process is complex, understanding the basics of the electoral process can take you a long way.


As with most things in the United States government system, the electoral college can be pretty complex and difficult to grasp. Explaining it in simple terms, there are a total of 538 electoral votes playing a role in the election. Each state gets its own number of electoral votes based on the amount of representatives in Congress it has. In order to win the presidential election, a candidate must receive the majority of the electoral votes, so at least 270. 


A common question asked within the discussion is whether or not the people’s vote even matters. The answer of course is yes, but the explanation can be a bit confusing. Essentially, the people’s vote mainly counts as a party vote, determining the color (red or blue) of your state. The electoral voters are chosen by the people, and they are chosen to represent each party. Once the people’s votes are counted and the color of your state is determined, said electoral voters will cast their vote, and the president will be elected.  


One of the most important things to note about the election process is that a presidential candidate can win the popular vote and still not become the president. If a candidate loses the popular vote but has the majority of electoral votes, they will become the president. This is exactly what happened in the 2016 presidential election, with Donald Trump becoming president due to his electoral vote count, while Hillary Clinton won the popular vote amongst the people. This exact instance is what has so many people discussing the electoral college in the first place, debating on whether or not it should be abolished entirely. 


Based on the outcome of this election, the discussion of abolishing the electoral college will likely be brought up again. As high school students, the majority of us will be able to vote in the 2024 election, so it is important to understand not only the electoral college, but form opinions on it as well if it gets to the point of abolishment. Remember that although the process may seem intimidating, it is essential that you allow your voice to be heard, go out and vote.