Political Jargon Buster: Electoral College

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45 million 18-29 year olds will be eligible to vote in this year’s presidential election, representing the largest potential voting bloc in the country. Learn more about the issues, register to vote and get involved with MTV’s Power of 12. Today, we’ve got another “Jargon Buster” for you.

Contrary to the sounds of it, this term has nothin’ to do with higher education institutions, elective or otherwise. This “college” is a group of officials responsible for submitting the, well, official vote for Prez. They are elected by the nation’s voters to, um, vote in their own elite election. Yes, it’s a bit meta, a bit confusing, but despite hundreds of proposals for amending our Constitution over the years, the electoral college remains intact as the ultimate say in who fills those Commander-in-Chief penny loafers.

After all of the caucuses, primaries and  hoopla, the American people will head to the polls in November to cast their vote for President — but the election process doesn’t end with the tally. Despite how logical it might seem, the winner isn’t determined by a nationwide popular vote. Nope. The results of that popular vote, though, will guide each state’s electoral college to cast their electoral votes … and those wind up determining the final say.

So won’t electoral voters always vote in line with the popular vote? What’s the point?

Though there’s no national law requiring as much, some states legally bind their electors to vote in accordance with the popular vote. Other times, the elector may be formally or informally obliged to their political party. Even without provisions in the books, it wouldn’t do much for an elector’s fan base to go voting in some zany, unpredictable way. Staying likeable in one’s party is career gold — so, in the end, popularity reigns supreme in politics after all.

Every once in a while, close calls do cause disparity. Remember that  Bush/Gore dramz in 2000? In the end, Bush received more electoral votes than popular votes, nabbing the presidency and the rest is US history.

And for an animated description of the electoral college system, check out MTV act correspondent Jacob Soboroff’s video explaining the meaning (and zaniness) of it all.

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