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The Electoral College, Ranked Choice Voting and More Ideas for Election Reform

Page history last edited by Robert W. Maloy 2 months ago

Image shows a blank 2020 Presidential Election Map


Topics on the Page


The Electoral College

  • Differentiated Learning Resources 


Ideas for Voting Reform


  • Early Voting
  • National Popular Vote
  • Proportional Allocation of Electoral Votes
  • Instant Runoff/Ranked Choice Voting


Voting and Fair Elections


For glossary of terms related to the discussion around voting systems, click here


For overview on different types of voting systems and their pros and cons, click here


CROSS-LINK: Disputed Elections in American Politics


The Electoral College

The United States uses an indirect method of electing the President centered around the Electoral College.


The Electoral College from Exploring Constitutional Conflicts has arguments for and against this feature of the American system.

  • Each state is given electoral votes equal to the number of representatives they have in the House of Representatives (as determined by the Census) plus two more for each of the state's two Senators.


  • Small states have influence (for example Montana and Wyoming with 3 electoral votes as of 2008) while large states have a greater voice (California has 55 electoral votes, Texas 34, and New York 31).


  • Electoral votes are distributed on a winner take all basis. A candidate with the most votes in a state (although not necessarily a majority) gets that state's electoral votes.


  • Maine and Nebraska have a slight variation where they assign some electoral votes to the statewide winner and some to each Congressional district winner.


  • Critics of the electoral college system contend that it produces apathy among voters since in contemporary American politics many states are solidly for the Democratic or Republican Party.



  • Click here to watch a crash course on the Electoral College.



Faithless Electors are members of the Electoral College who do not vote for their party's designated candidate




 Should Puerto Rico or Washington, D.C. Be the 51st State?



Can the Democrats Win the Senate by Adding Seats?  It's Been Done Before, FiveThirtyEight (June 5, 2019)



Puerto Rico Admission Act of 2018



Pedro Albrizu Campos Leads the Puerto Rican Independence Movement



The Dream of Puerto Rican Independence, and the Story of Heriberto Marin, The New Yorker (December 27, 2017)





 Online Resources and How They Differentiate Learning for Students (submitted by Molly Follette, April 2019)



 This resource is a podcast that discusses why Democratic candidates want to end the Electoral College and how many states plan to work around it.



 This resource features charts and graphs showing the votes from electors and how seven electors, the most ever, voted for someone other than their party’s nominee.



 This resource features charts and graphs showing the difference between Trump’s electoral and popular vote and then compares his percent of electoral college won with presidents of the past.




This resource is an extremely detailed interactive map of the 2016 election. You can specifically search states, cities and towns or zipcodes




 This is a resource that defines what an Electoral College is and how it functioned in both the 2016 election of Donald Trump and the 2008 election of Obama. This resource also explains the difference between the popular and electoral vote.




 This resource gives a brief history of how the Electoral College came to be. This resource also compares and contrasts the advantages and disadvantages of the Electoral College.


File:Unity in Diversity flag.svg https://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/08/learning/lesson-plans/the-final-vote-for-president-learning-about-the-electoral-college.html

 This resource features a funny but informative video that explains what the Electoral College is and why so many people think it is outdated. This resource also offers suggestions for small- group activities, discussion questions and resources for students to answer the question of whether it should be retained or abolished.




 This resource features numerous interactive sources for teachers to explore in order to best guide class discussion concerning voting reform, fair elections, and proportional allocation of electoral votes.


This resource is a video recording of Woody Guthrie's This Land is Your Land, the lyrics are notable when thinking critically about the electoral college.





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Ideas for Reform


To Build a Better Ballot - an interactive guide to alternative voting systems


Early Voting

Voting Early and in Droves, 22 Million Ballots are Already In, The New York Times (October 31, 2016).

  • This article includes early voting state maps and trends during the 2016 Presidential election.


National Popular Vote

FairVote Support National Popular Vote


The Movement to Skip the Electoral College is About to Pass a Major Milestone



Proportional Allocation of Electoral Votes

Proportional Allocation of Electoral Votes is one proposal for change.

  • Instead of a winner take all system, electoral votes would be divided according to percentage of votes that each candidate received in a state.
    • In 2000, for example, George W. Bush won Florida by 534 votes over Al Gore and received the state's 25 electoral votes. If the electoral votes were distributed proportionally, Bush would have received 13 and Gore 12, giving the election to Gore.


See FairVote's Proportional Representation Library for a wide variety of resources regarding proportional allocation. Below are some suggested resources:









Find advantages of proportional representation here

Find disadvantages of proportional representation here 



Instant Runoff/Ranked-Choice Voting (RCV)

external image Preferential_ballot.svg
Instant Runoff Voting is a widely discussed idea for reforming American elections.





  • the city of Minneapolis has made a video explaining ranked choice voting using pizza toppings -- check it out!


  • Pros and cons of ranked choice voting here (The Council of State Governments)



RCV Mock Election Vote Tally, from Vote Different Santa Fe



Rates of voting in the 2008 U.S. Presidential Election by income, Rcragun
Rates of voting in the 2008 U.S. Presidential Election by income, Rcragun


Voting and Fair Elections


The following organizations are concerned with ensuring fair elections, promoting electoral reform, and registering new voters.

  • FairVote - FairVote is a non-profit organization dedicated to research and action on voting issues. They are "dedicated to fair elections where every vote counts and all voters are represented." Election reform is a subject of specific interest to FairVote.
  • Rock the Vote - This youth-oriented organization encourages informed voting and political activism among citizens and potential voters between the ages of 18 and 30. Rock the Vote's informational campaigns combine the efforts of popular music and movie stars with those of politicians in order to inform and entertain about political issues.


Click here to watch a commercial of Rock the Vote.


Federal Election Commission -


  • Created by Congress in 1975, the Federal Election Commission (FEC) administers and enforces the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA), which is the statute that governs the financing of federal elections. The FEC is an independent regulatory agency, which discloses campaign finance information, enforces limits and prohibitions on contributions, and oversees the public funding of Presidential elections.



Michelle Obama Co-Founded the Voter Participation Organization When We All Vote in 2018



Vote by Mail


See US Government's information on vote-by-mail here


 Pros and Cons of "no-excuse" vote-by-mail here

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