Why Does The Ballot Say I'm Voting For Electors? The Electoral College Actually Casts The Final Vote

This election feels like it's dragged on forever, and now that the moment to actually cast your one important vote for the next president of the United States is almost here. But when you get to the polling station and look at your options, a desperate question might appear in your mind: why does the ballot say I'm voting for electors? Why can't I just vote for the president?

Two words: Electoral College. You are just voting for the president. And for the electors. Who will vote for the president with their all-powerful electoral votes. Sound confusing? Let me explain.

When the founders of the country sat down to make the rules that now govern us and our elections, they decided that an Electoral College system would be the fairest for everyone, as it would slightly even out power between the states. In practice, what it means is that when you cast your vote, you're not voting for the president, but instead for an elector who is "pledged" to their party's candidate. Each state counts the popular vote for each candidate, and then all of the state's electoral votes go to the candidate who won the statewide popular vote. There are two exceptions to this rule: Nebraska and Maine, which use the congressional district method. In these two cases, they count the popular vote by congressional district, with one elector tied to each congressional district and another two tied to the statewide popular vote.

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In any state you live in, however, this means that your vote doesn't go directly to the president. Instead, it goes to your candidate's party's electors in your state (or congressional district). For all of your individual purposes, however, voting for whoever that elector is functions as a vote for president. The political parties choose their electors very carefully to ensure that everything will go smoothly on Election Day, and many states actually have laws mandating that the electors vote for their party's candidate, with punishments for "faithless electors" who cast their vote elsewhere.

When it comes down to it, the Electoral College is just another element of the American representative democracy. If your state says on the ballot that you're voting for electors instead of the candidate themselves, they're just introducing some transparency into a process that is still a mystery to many. So cast your vote with pride, brag to your friends about which candidate you voted for, and display that "I Voted" sticker for as long as it'll stick on your clothes, because now you've officially taken part in the democratic process.