What is the Electoral College?

Election Day

Image: Theresa Thompson (Flickr)

Image: Theresa Thompson (Flickr)

November 8, 2016, is Election Day in the United States. Americans will line up at polling stations across the nation to cast their ballot for the next US President (and other elected offices).

Votes will be counted, a winner will be declared, and he or she will begin preparing to assume office on January 20, 2017.

However, did you know that the next President and Vice President are not officially declared until early January 2017?

 Not So Fast

When registered voters cast their ballots for President and Vice President, they are actually choosing electors who will represent their state. Electors cast their votes for President and Vice President in the Electoral College on December 19, 2016.

On January 6, 2017, Congress meets in a joint session to count the Electoral College votes. The Vice President, as President of the Senate, presides over the count and announces the results of the Electoral College vote. The President of the Senate then declares which persons, if any, have been elected President and Vice President of the United States.  (There are more steps in place if there is no winner at this point.)


The Electoral College

“The Electoral College is a process, not a place. The founding fathers established it in the Constitution as a compromise between election of the President by a vote in Congress and election of the President by a popular vote of qualified citizens.” (US Electoral College)

If all of this technical information is confusing you, don’t worry- you’re not alone. In 2000 a Gallup Poll found that only 30% of Americans said they understood the system “very well,” and another 28% said they knew virtually nothing about the Electoral College.

Play Along At Home

Of course, au pairs are ineligible to vote, but that doesn’t keep you from playing along at home. Here are several videos and other activities that you can do to learn more about the US presidential election process. These can be fun ideas to do with your host kids too. (Tip: Check-in with your host parents, before you talk about the election or do any election-related activities with your host kids.)

All-American Books  (Common Sense Media’s list of children’s books about the election, US History, and other topics for kids of all ages).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *