Wisconsin may be known for its cheese, but "America's Dairyland" has close to 5.8 million residents — and that's a lot of voters. The presidential candidate who wins Wisconsin's Electoral College votes will inevitably get a leg up on the competition. But how many electors does Wisconsin have overall?
As a constitutional republic, the United States doesn't have voters directly elect the president and vice president. Instead, voters vote to select their state's electors in the Electoral College, which convenes every four years to elect the head of the executive branch. The Electoral College was established as a compromise between having Congress elect the president and vice president and having citizens directly elect them. It consists of 538 voters; each state receives two electors, which correspond to its two senators, as well as one vote for each member it has in the House of Representatives. For the purposes of the presidential election, Washington D.C. counts as a state and is allocated three electors.
Since Wisconsin has eight members of Congress, the state gets 10 electors. While this may not seem like much in comparison to California, which has 55 electors, it is a big benefit for a candidate since several states and D.C. only receive three electors. In all but two states, Maine and Nebraska, the candidate who gets the most votes wins all of the state's electors rather than splitting it proportionally.
In 2012, Wisconsin's electors voted for President Obama, who defeated Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney by more than 200,000 votes. According to an aggregation of polls, Wisconsin is leaning similarly Democratic in this election. Still, Democrat Hillary Clinton has a less than 7 percent lead on Republican Donald Trump as of Nov. 1, so things might change between now and Election Day.
The Electoral College system is not without controversy; in 2000, Al Gore won the popular vote but lost the presidency to George W. Bush. If this is the case, why does the Electoral College still exist? Part of it is due to the United States' federalist history; the Electoral College ensures that smaller states continue to play an integral part in the presidential election. Rather than only courting the populations of larger states, candidates have to win as many electoral college votes as possible. In other words, every electoral vote counts regardless of whether it comes from a small or large state.