Presidential Elections

The Electoral College

Were the electors always chosen by popular election?

No. While today all presidential electors are chosen by eligible voters, in the early republic more than half the states chose electors in their legislatures, thus eliminating any direct involvement of the voting public in the election. After 1800, this practice changed, as voting rights expanded to include a larger section of the population. By 1836, all the states except South Carolina selected their electors by a statewide popular vote. South Carolina continued to choose its electors through the state legislature until 1868.

A young African American woman casts her vote at a Washington, D.C., high school in the 1964 presidential election. This simple act represents hard-won triumphs in civil rights that took hundreds of years to accomplish. Her vote, however, actually goes toward selecting a representative in the electoral college and not directly for her personal choice for president.


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