the Future of the electoral College

A Free Online Course in U.S. Presidential Politics

About the Course:

One of the biggest challenges facing our democracy today is the increasing likelihood that the outcome of the Electoral College will not match the national popular vote winner. This course explores this apparent contradiction in our democracy and the pro’s and con’s of a national popular vote. You will hear from leading experts on presidential elections as well as educators who are on the front lines of this issue.

  • What is the Electoral College and its historical context?

  • What is happening now and why is this such an important issue today?

  • What does it mean for you?

  • How has technology impacted the Electoral College debate?

  • What are states doing to address the issue?

Is This Class for Me?

This course is designed for anyone who is interested in learning more about the Electoral College, its historical context, and what it means for our democracy today. No prior knowledge is required.


Class 1 :  A bug in our democracy

If we continue to see close Presidential races, over 30% of elections in the next century are likely to select a president against the will of the majority of voters. Learn more in this video lecture by Professor Sam Wang, Princeton University Election Consortium. (38 mins)

Class 2: The history of the electoral college and voting rights

“The electoral college,’ a phrase not used in the Constitution, is an institution that means that a citizen’s vote is imprisoned within the state in which it is cast. Learn more in this video lecture by Professor Richard Tedlow, the Class of 1949 Professor Emeritus of Business Administration at the Harvard Business School and board member of the Making Every Vote Count Foundation. (22 mins)


Class 3: (A Lecture in Three Parts):

A Single-State Strategy For Reform

Could a single state make a change that would improve the system for all?

If just one, or a few, of the states reconsidered the unhealthy winner-take-all system, they could make legal changes which would encourage campaigning to win the national popular vote total.

In short, the states could decide to make the national popular vote relevant.

The status quo dictates that in order to win the presidency, each party must devote the entirety of its resources to move the needle in the battleground states where the Electoral College outcome is not a foregone conclusion. Because of this, in any given presidential election, the number of states where either party stands to gain any electors rarely exceeds a dozen.

The rules of the game mean that all participants must play to win the pluralities in the battleground states. The imperative to win these states, which alone determine the outcome, prevents candidates from spending valuable time or money campaigning anywhere else.

The effect is so extreme, as we shall see, that 80% of the U.S. population do not have votes that matter to campaigns.

Making Every Vote Count

What would it take to make every vote count?

Learn more in the following three-part lecture series, the final class of the course, presented by Reed Hundt, Chairman of The Making Every Vote Count Foundation.

Each video is about six minutes. After the video, use this Interactive Map below so you find out what options each state has to create its own path to making every vote count!


Class 3, Part I.

The Future of the Electoral College


Class 3, Part II.

The Future of the Electoral College


Class 3, Part III.

The Future of the Electoral College


Consent of the Governed?

A Very Exclusive Presidential Election

Presidential campaigns focus all of their efforts on a handful of states they expect will be close in the general election. But most states will not be close and therefore campaigns can make safe assumptions based on polling and past elections which states will either be red or blue. Accordingly, candidates for president can win while still ignoring the majority of states and the majority of voters .


A Fixable Problem

Many Paths to a Solution . . .

To visualize a solution, try working with our 2020 Presidential Election Simulator, which will help you see how the Electoral College works — and how reforming the system could make it work better.