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What is the purpose of the electoral college?

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Quick Answer

The purpose of the electoral college is to be a compromise between election of the president by the vote of Congress and the popular vote of the people. The founding fathers established the electoral college in the United States Constitution, believing that it would be both a buffer and provide fair power to all states regardless of size.

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What is the purpose of the electoral college?
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Full Answer

The electoral college consists of 538 electors, and of those, a candidate needs 270 votes to become president. Although the Founding Fathers wanted the people to have a say, there was concern that a charismatic tyrant could manipulate public opinion and come into power. Alexander Hamilton briefly addressed these concerns in the Federalist Papers. The idea was that the electors would be a group of people who would ensure that a qualified person would become president.

The first design of the electoral college allowed each state the same number of electors as senators, which was always two, plus the same number of its U.S. Representatives. Each elector met within its own state rather than one large meeting altogether. The founding fathers believed this would prevent bribery, corruption and secret dealings. The candidate with the most electoral votes, provided it was the majority, became president. The candidate with the second most electoral votes became vice president. This lasted through the first four presidential elections when the powers that be realized ties were inevitable. The process was changed to include one vote for president and a separate vote for vice president, but still required a majority vote in order for a candidate to take office.

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