LA CROSSE, Wisconsin (WXOW) – To win the Presidency, President Barack Obama or Mitt Romney will need to amass 270 electoral votes.
"There's not really a single election for president, there are 51 elections for president," said Dr. Stephen McDougal, a Professor of Political Science at the UW-La Crosse.
All 50 states and the District of Columbia are encompassed in the Electoral College. But to understand how the college works, you must first understand the concept of electors.
"When we vote in the Electoral College, we're actually voting for a slate of electors who aren't chosen until Election Day," said Dr. Tim Dale, who is also a Political Science Professor at UWL.
"So there's a slate of electors representing Obama's Presidential ticket and there's a slate of electors representing Romney. Whoever wins the popular vote in Wisconsin, that candidate's electors will be chosen to go vote in the Electoral College."
But in certain elections, such as the 2000 match up between George W. Bush and Al Gore, the Electoral College and the popular vote have conflicted.
The majority of voters elected Gore to be their president.
But Bush won the necessary 270 electoral votes, and thus the Presidency.
"The electoral college created in the constitution is really intended to reflect the presidency as a representation of states," Dale said. "So when states are voting, they're voting as a state. The state itself is a voter in the Electoral College. So really, the electoral college has functioned to in a sense insulate from that popular vote."
"By structuring the Electoral College as the mechanism that constitutionally chooses the president, every state in the union gets some piece of the action," McDougal said. "No one state would be able to dictate a Presidential choice on the basis of numbers."
"If the Electoral College represents states rather than the popular vote, it does its job," Dale added.
The Federal Register claims there have been more than 700 proposals to amend the Constitution and change the Electoral College system – none of which has made much headway.
McDougal said he doesn't think that's likely.
"If we wanted to change the way the Electoral College works, first of all there'd have to be some sort of formal proposal, with good constitutional language," he said.
"It would then have to pass the U.S. House by a 2/3 vote, the US Senate by a 2/3 vote, and then be ratified by 3/4 of the state legislatures," McDougal said. "It's very difficult, which is why the constitution has only been amended a few dozen times."
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