Monday, October 10, 2016

Ready for the Electoral College? Take our quiz -- Oct. 6, 2016 column

Every four years, millions of Americans go to the polls and vote for . . . a slate of electors. Take our 10-question quiz to brush up on the Electoral College. Answers are below. No peeking – and no Googling!

  1. What is the Electoral College?
A.      Scholars that wrote election law in the 19th century
B.      The process for electing the president and vice president that dates to the 18th century
C.      The undisclosed location where elected officials learn law-making
D.      A reality TV show  

2.       Why do we have an Electoral College?

A.      The Constitution states that the “Electoral College” shall choose the president if no candidate gets a majority of the popular vote
B.      Every president since George Washington has signed an executive order creating one
C.      It’s a compromise between electing the president by congressional vote or by  popular vote of qualified people
D.      The Supreme Court said so

3.   Who gets to be in the Electoral College?
A. Any elected official  
B. Anyone who is not a member of Congress or a federal official
C. Only registered voters  
D. Only donors to the Republican and Democratic parties

4. True or false: Electors are legally bound to vote for the presidential candidate who wins the most votes in their state.

5. The House of Representatives has 435 members, and there are 100 senators. How many electors are in the Electoral College?

A. 100
B. 435
C. 535
D. 538

6.  What happens if no presidential candidate wins a majority of electoral votes -- 270?   

A. The Senate elects the president from the top two electoral vote-getters
B. The House of Representatives elects the president from the top three electoral vote-getters
C. The Supreme Court elects the president
D. The 50 governors elect the president

7. Is it possible for the winner of the nationwide popular vote for president not to win the electoral vote?

A.      No, the candidate who wins the most popular votes always wins
B.      Yes, because the popular vote does not choose the president. The Electoral College does.
C.      Yes, because all but two states award their electoral votes on a winner-take-all basis.
D.      B and C

8. How often has the winner of the nationwide popular vote for president not won the electoral vote?

A. Never
B. Once
C. Twice
D. Four times     

9. Where do the electors meet to cast their ballots?

     A. Electors from every state gather in Independence Hall in Philadelphia
     B. Electors gather in the U.S. Capitol
     C. Electors from each state meet in their states, usually in the state Capitol
     D. Online

10. True or False. Congress could pass a law eliminating the Electoral College.

Bonus Question:  What happens on the first Monday after the second Wednesday in December every four years?  

  1. B.  The framers of the Constitution agreed on our indirect system of elections in 1787.
  2. C.  The framers compromised on having “electors” choose the president and vice president. The words “electoral college” are not in the Constitution, but “electors” appears in Article II and the 12th Amendment. We started using the term electoral college in the 19th century and it’s now in federal law.
  3. B. Under the Constitution, only U.S. senators, representatives and anyone holding “an Office of Trust or Profit under the United States” are prohibited from being electors.
  4. False. Neither the Constitution nor federal law requires electors to follow the popular vote. Many states have such laws, but not all. 
5.       D. One for each House member and senators and three for the District of Columbia, which is treated as a state, thanks to the 23rd Amendment.

6.       B. Each state’s delegation gets one vote.  The Senate would elect the vice president from the top two VP electoral candidates, with each senator having one vote.

  1. D. Only Maine and Nebraska award their electoral votes on a proportional basis.
  2. D. In 1824, 1876, 1888 and 2000.
  3. C. The Electoral College never meets as one big group.
  4. False. To change or eliminate the Electoral College would require a Constitutional amendment.
Bonus: That’s the day electors meet in each state to elect the president and vice president. This year it’s Dec. 19.
Want to make your own Electoral College predictions? Check out the National Archives’ interactive map at   

SCORING: 10 points for each correct answer, plus 5 points for the bonus.
85 to 100 – You win the Electoral College bowl.
70 to 85 – Tenure at the Electoral College is yours.
55 to 70 – Politicians crave numbers like these.
45 to 55 – Your insight is blog-worthy.
25 to 40 – Don’t believe everything you read online.
Below 25 – There’s always 2020.

SOURCES:  U.S. National Archives and Records Administration, Congressional Research Service, U.S. Department of State, U.S. House Offices of Historian and Art and Archives

--Compiled by Marsha Mercer



  1. Thank you! This test should be required reading for all high schoolers, and citizens. I'm posting it on FB.