Electoral college: the people who ultimately choose the US president

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By Sam Cabral
BBC News, Washington

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The US presidential election was held five weeks ago, but votes that officially anoint the next president are about to be cast.
When Americans go to the polls in presidential elections, they don’t vote directly for the president. They actually vote for a group of 538 “voters” who make up the electoral college.
Voters cast their ballot on Monday, December 14, after all 50 states and the District of Columbia certified their election results.
We’ll introduce some of those voters in a moment – two regular Americans and one that everyone knows – but first, let’s go over how it all works.

Who can be a voter?

The US Constitution only states that voters cannot be members of Congress or others who currently hold federal office. Thus, they can be:

  • Retired politicians – Former President Bill Clinton voted for his wife Hillary in 2016.
  • State and local elected officials – New York Governor Andrew Cuomo was a Democratic voter in 2016
  • Grassroots activists, lobbyists or other government figures – we have two examples below
  • Personal or professional link with the candidate – Donald Trump Jr was a voter for his father the last time

media legendThe President of the United States is not chosen directly by the voters, but by what is known as the Electoral College

How are voters chosen?

Each political party with a presidential candidate nominates or votes on its own voters list in the months leading up to election day. States have their own rules for choosing voters.
Roughly based on the size of its population, each state has as many voters as it has legislators in the US Congress (representatives in the House and Senate).
Once we know who won a state’s popular vote, we know which party will nominate that state’s voters.
Voters are like rubber stamps that formalize how their state voted, so they are usually staunch supporters of their party.

What role do voters play?

Voters have already pledged their support for a certain candidate, so they almost always vote as promised.
That changed in 2016, when a historic number of so-called “cheating voters” – seven in total – voted for candidates other than those they had pledged to support (five turned against Clinton, two against Trump). It was the first election since 1948 to feature more than one unfaithful voter.
States have since sought to tighten their rules against unfaithful voters, pushing laws to suppress them and have their votes redacted if they don’t vote as promised, an initiative backed by the U.S. Supreme Court.

What is happening in 2020?

With the support of several prominent supporters, President Trump called on the Republican state legislatures of the states he lost to reject their popular vote results and nominate their own constituency. Election law experts are skeptical of the possibility and Republican leaders have rejected the suggestion.
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A presidential candidate must obtain at least 270 of the 538 votes that make up the electoral college.

If voters vote based on their states’ certified results, they will give Joe Biden 306 votes and Donald Trump 232, officially handing over the presidency to Mr. Biden.

‘I am a voter in New York’

By far the most famous voter this year is Hillary Clinton.
The former secretary of state and first lady lost the 2016 presidential election to Mr Trump, but she is getting the final say as a voter this year from her home state of New York.
Announcing that she was a voter, Clinton said it would be “quite exciting” to vote for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris as the next president and vice president, respectively.
Ms Clinton has previously called for the abolition of the electoral college, arguing that presidents should instead be chosen by popular vote. In 2016, she was defeated in the Electoral College despite winning nearly three million more votes than Mr. Trump.

‘It’s a real change’

Khary Penebakerimage copyrightKhary Penebaker
Khary Penebaker is a father of three, president of a small business and a proud Democrat. He will be one of 10 voters in the state of Wisconsin, voting for Mr. Biden and Ms. Harris.
Mr. Penebaker has been an elected representative of the state’s Democratic National Committee since 2017 and ran for Congress in 2016, so he’s a familiar face in Wisconsin party politics.
“In 2016, I was a voter for Hillary Clinton, but I didn’t get a chance to vote for America’s first female president,” Penebaker said. “At least now I can vote for Joe Biden, who will restore some semblance of civility and decency. ”
He will be one of two black voters in his state and rejoices at the prospect of Vice President Harris: “For people of color, we don’t want to be seen as the enemy. With our black first vice president, we have someone who can see us as equals and as human beings. ”

“It is a very honorable position”

Naomi Narvaizimage copyrightNaomi Narvaiz
Naomi Narvaiz is a mother of five, a community activist and a devout Republican. She will be one of 38 voters in the state of Texas, voting for President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence.
In addition to being a Republican Party official in Texas, Narvaiz has been actively involved at various levels in her community, from her school district’s health advisory board to her city’s ethics commission. She was nominated as a voter by her sister-in-law, a former local elected official, and was chosen at the state party’s convention earlier this year.
“It is a very honorable position to occupy,” said Narvaiz, “and I am very grateful that the people of my congressional district have honored me with their votes to do this for them. ”
Texas is one of 17 states that does not force its voters to vote for the person who won the state’s popular vote. Two Texans were among the seven infidel voters in the 2016 election, voting for former presidential candidates John Kasich and Ron Paul.
Narvaiz says his support for President Trump is strong: “I wanted to make sure that our district in Congress was well represented and that we had a loyal voter to vote for President Donald J. Trump, and I knew that person would be me. .

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