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Electoral college

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Electoral college

The Constitution (Article II, Section 1) directed that the president and vice-president be chosen by a “number of electors” from each state equal to its representatives and senators in Congress. Since no party system then existed, it was assumed that few individuals (after George Washington) would receive a majority because the electors would divide among too many favorite sons. The college was accordingly expected to serve as a de facto nominating caucus that would winnow the number of potential candidates to three, from whom the House of Representatives would make the final choice. The Twelth Amendment modified the college's balloting system.
The electoral college evolved to reflect public opinion without other amendments because it was organized under state law. By 1800, five of the 15 states chose electors by popular balloting rather than by the state legislature, and by 1828 all did so except Del. and S.C. Legislatures also mandated that all electors be awarded to whomever won a majority or plurality of ballots. This innovation ended the need for Congress to choose presidents after John Q. Adams, by enabling candidates with a plurality of the popular vote to win a majority of electoral ballots in 1844, 1848, 1856, 1860, 1880, 1884, 1892, 1912, 1916, 1948, 1960, 1968, and 1992, but allowed candidates with less than a plurality to win in 1876 (see Electoral Count Act) and 1888. The District of Columbia was allowed to cast three electoral ballots in 1964. The Supreme Court has ruled that electors may vote contrary to a state's popular returns, as has been done in 1948 and all elections from 1956 to 1976 except for 1964.