The United States Electoral College is a body in the United States tasked with the selection of a president and the vice president of the US every four years. After the presidential Election Day, this body convenes and casts its vote to select the president. In almost all the states of the United States, the voting style used for electoral votes is the “winner-takes-all” system. In other words, the candidate who has the majority of that state’s electoral votes gets all the votes of that state. For example, if a state is allocated 20 electoral votes and a candidate wins 11 to 9, then that presidential candidate ends up getting all the 20 votes from that state. However, two states do not follow this idea of giving the winner everything. These states, which use the congressional district method, are Maine and Nebraska.
The Congressional District Method
There are currently two versions of this method although the focus will be on the one that has been used in both Maine and Nebraska. In these two states, the electoral votes are not all associated with the popular winner of the electoral votes as is the case with other states. Instead, these two states use a system where each congressional district is associated with an electoral vote. Another two votes are then associated with the statewide presidential winner. The number of electors works out perfectly since each congressional district chooses a single elector as per the number of representatives in the House of Representatives. The state then chooses the remaining two electors that each state is granted from the two senators that each state has in the Senate.
The other method is slightly different and has been suggested for use in the state of Virginia. Under this alternative system, the electoral votes are distributed based on the most popular candidate from each congressional district. Unlike Maine and Nebraska, the system suggested in Virginia will see to it that the extra two senatorial votes are given to the congressional district winners and not the statewide winner.
Advantages and Disadvantages
The idea behind this system is that it provides the opportunity for the people to have more say in the choice of the president. However, this method has its disadvantages as well. For example, in the case of the first method, it still places an emphasis on the statewide winner due to the two senatorial electors. In addition, it is not particularly ideal since recent events have shown that manipulation of the votes is quite easy through a method known as gerrymandering. By definition, gerrymandering refers to changing the district line during elections so that one party benefits more. For example, district lines can be drawn in such a way that opposition voters are concentrated in one region. Consequently, the opposition cannot have an influence on many seats.
Maine was the first to adopt the system back in 1972 while Nebraska followed later in 1992. During the 2008 presidential elections, there was a split in Nebraska where Obama ended up winning. In 2016, a similar split happened in Maine, which was the same year that President Trump won the elections. In both cases, the splits meant that traditional voting patterns for those states changed.