Purdue expert explains the Electoral College

WLFI File Photo
WLFI File Photo

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI) — Despite Hillary Clinton winning nearly 400,000 more popular votes than Donald Trump, the Republican candidate is the president-elect; and it’s all because of the electoral college.

“The electoral college is a way to allow states to have an impact on the outcome because those electors are distributed across states by the congressional delegation numbers,” Purdue Political Science Department Head Rosalee Clawson said.

According to Clawson, it is designed to protect against a political leader seeking support by appealing to popular desires or prejudices.

“The thinking was that elites would step in, elites in the form of electors, would step in and not select that person for the presidency,” said Clawson.

The president is selected by a college of 538 electors divided from each state and the District of Columbia. Each state gets as many electoral votes as it has members of Congress.

States usually give all their electoral votes to whichever candidate won the state’s popular vote but there can be some fighting against the more than 200-year-old system.

“This state-based winner take all system is a disaster,” National Popular Vote senior consultant Patrick Rosenstiel said.

Rosenstiel is part of a movement trying to do away with the Electoral College.

“What we’re working on is a state-based compact that asks the Legislature to award their electors on the basis of the national popular vote so that every voter in every state can be politically relevant in every presidential election,” explained Rosenstiel.

Clawson said it would be difficult to change the current system, but she said nothing in the Constitution or federal law says electors must vote for the candidate that wins the vote in their state.

If enough faithless electors chose Clinton, she could be elected president when the Electoral College meets on Dec.19. But Clawson said it’s a long shot.

“Is it possible that electors could change their minds?” asked Clawson. “Yes, I think it’s possible. Do I think it’s likely? No. I don’t think it’s likely.”