UK political science professor breaks down Electoral College

Published: Nov. 5, 2020 at 5:10 PM EST
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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - It will take 270 electoral votes to win the presidency. Joe Biden is now at 264, Donald Trump at 214.

The United States Electoral College is as old as the Constitution. It was created to give smaller states power and to prevent the public from electing a tyrant into office.

“The idea that the electorate, the voters themselves could swing on whim, the framers wanted to have a bit more insulation than that, so rather than allowing the voters to have the entire say in the process they set up this idea of electors, who maybe were more experts in political affairs,” said Michael Zilis, associate professor of political science at the University of Kentucky.

The Electoral College is made up of 538 electors. Since Kentucky has two senators and six congressmen, the state gets eight electors. The state Republican and Democratic parties choose who their electors will be.

“These are typically party loyalists, prominent political figures within a party,” Zilis said.

On Election Day people are actually voting for their state’s electors.

“What they’re voting for is not directly the presidential race, but rather they’re voting for one of those two slates of electors,” Zilis said.

Since Donald Trump won Kentucky this election, the Republican Party will send its eight electors to cast a final vote in December.

“A very high likelihood that the Republican slate of electors will all cast their votes for Donald Trump,” Zilis said.

But the Constitution does not require them to. In fact, in 2016, two Texas electors voted for other Republican presidential candidates even though Trump won majority of the state’s vote.

It’s unlikely that something like this will happen in Kentucky. The state is deep red and pretty much Trump territory. But Trump is lagging behind Biden when it comes to national popular vote.

Critics have said the Electoral College should be done away with and let whoever wins the popular vote become president.

“Based on the last few elections at least, Republicans have done relatively well in the Electoral College compared to the popular vote margin so there’s not a whole lot of push in the Republican Party to change the Electoral College, that ebbs and flows over time which party has an advantage with that,” Zilis said.

Abolishing the Electoral Colleges requires an amendment to the Constitution.

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