The Electoral College

Contributor: Meghan Vestal. Lesson ID: 10975

One person. One vote. That's the rule for elections in the US. However, electing the president is not all that simple. Use video, online documents, and maps to learn how the electoral college works!


Civics, United States

learning style
personality style
Grade Level
Middle School (6-8)
Lesson Type
Dig Deeper

Lesson Plan - Get It!

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U.S. citizens are part of a democracy, where everyone gets to vote, but the president is not elected by winning a popular vote!

When the founding fathers wrote the Constitution, they included a system for electing the president of the United States.

Since the U.S. government is a democracy, and open presidential elections are held every four years, many people assume the president is elected by a popular vote. While the popular vote plays a role in a presidential election, the process is not that simple, and a majority popular vote does not necessarily create a victory!

The president is elected by winning the greatest number of votes from the electoral college. The electoral college is one of the most controversial aspects of the U.S. government. This is because there have been instances where presidential candidates have won the popular vote, but lost the electoral vote.

Today, you will learn about the electoral college and develop pros and cons for this system of government.

Article 2, Section 1 of the U.S. Constitution describes how a president is elected. Amendment 23, Section 1 was added in 1961 to include the District of Columbia in the process. Read these sections of the Constitution. You can use the U.S. Archives Constitution of the United States if you do not have a copy.

  • How is a president elected?
  • What does he or she need a majority of to win?

Presidents are elected by winning the electoral college vote. To learn more about the electoral college, watch this TEDEd Does Your Vote Count? The Electoral College Explained - Christina Greer video:

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There are many arguments for and against the electoral college.

The TEDEd video explains many of those arguments. One of the main reasons the electoral college remains controversial is because it is possible for a presidential candidate to win the popular vote and lose the electoral vote. This happened in the 2000 presidential election when the Democrat candidate, Al Gore, won the popular vote over the Republican candidate, George W. Bush. Even though Bush had fewer popular votes than Gore, Bush became president because he won the electoral college vote. Read Social Studies for Kids' article The Election of 2000 to find out more about this historic election.

After you have read about the presidential election of 2000, read Ducksters' article US Government Electoral College and TIME FOR KIDS' article, The Electoral College: Top 3 Pros and Cons (, to learn more about the pros and cons of the electoral college. As you read the articles, make a pro and con list stating reasons why a person may favor or disagree with the electoral college.

When you have finished reading each of the articles and creating your pro and con list, find a friend or family member and explain the electoral college to them. Be sure to explain how the electoral college works, and provide reasons why a person may be in favor of, or not in favor of, the electoral college.

Now, move on to the Got It? section to see where your state stands.

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