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Sep. 29, 2020

Election 2020 and the power of the Electoral College

The winner of the Electoral College, not the popular vote, wins the White House. While polls show former Vice President Joe Biden will likely receive more votes nationally than President Donald Trump, Trump still retains a shot at a second term, says Michigan State University economics professor Charles Ballard.

 

Voting has already started across the country, but the results in the few key states that Trump won in 2016 will determine the outcome when the votes are counted on Nov. 3, Ballard said in the latest State of the State monthly podcast. The podcast is available on SoundCloud and on iTunes.

 

The U.S. Constitution provides for each presidential candidate to be awarded Electoral College votes based upon the popular balloting in each state. Electoral College votes are based on each state’s congressional representation.

 

“This is the only election in the world where the person who gets the most votes is not guaranteed to be the winner,” Ballard said.

 

Michigan has 16 electoral votes based on its 14 members in the U.S. House of Representatives and two senators. As with most states, Electoral College members are required by law to cast their votes for the winner of the popular vote.

 

Historically, the popular vote winner carries the Electoral College. Twice in the past five presidential elections however - Trump in 2016 and George W. Bush in 2000 - the loser of the popular vote carried enough critical states to secure the presidency.

 

A small number of key states, such as Florida, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin and Arizona, may determine the nation’s next president, Ballard explained.

 

“Most of the polls show Biden's somewhat ahead. But not necessarily far enough ahead to win the election,” he said.

 

September’s State of the State podcast produced by MSU’s Institute for Public Policy and Social Research, also has fresh takes on COVID-19 and its impact on jobs.

 

“The economy has gone from disastrous in April to I would still say, ‘quite troubled’ now,” Ballard said.

 

August’s unemployment rate was 8.7% and may not return to normal until next year at the earliest. The nature of work will likely be disrupted too, Ballard observed, university instruction included.

 

“We won't fully get back to normal until enough people have been vaccinated and feel relatively safe about substantial gatherings in person,” Ballard said. “We can't get all the way back to normal until that happens.”

By: Cynthia Kyle

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