Electoral College vs. popular vote in the United States

A map showing test results for the 2020 Electoral College -- 270towin.com
A map showing test results for the 2020 Electoral College -- 270towin.com (270towin.com)

WASHINGTON – WHY IS IT THAT ONE CANDIDATE CAN WIN THE POPULAR VOTE BUT ANOTHER WINS THE ELECTORAL VOTE AND THUS THE PRESIDENCY?

That’s how the framers of the Constitution set it up.

This unique system of electing presidents is a big reason why Donald Trump won the presidency in 2016. Four candidates in history have won the popular vote only to be denied the presidency by the Electoral College.

The Electoral College was devised at the Constitutional Convention in 1787. It was a compromise between those who wanted direct popular elections for president and those who preferred to have Congress decide. At a time of little national identity and competition among the states, there were concerns that people would favor their regional candidates and that big states with denser populations would dominate the vote.

The Electoral College has 538 members, with the number allocated to each state based on how many representatives it has in the House plus its two senators. (The District of Columbia gets three, despite the fact that the home to Congress has no vote in Congress.)

To be elected president, the winner must get at least half plus one — or 270 electoral votes.

Graphic shows scenario in which a presidential candidate can win the popular vote but lose the election.;

This hybrid system means that more weight is given to a single vote in a small state than the vote of someone in a large state, leading to outcomes at times that have been at odds with the popular vote.