“The Electoral College doesn’t give votes to people, only states,” CGP Grey explains in his video on the Electoral College.
The Electoral College is the reason that Puerto Ricans cannot vote for their president when they live in Puerto Rico, but can do so as soon as they move to a state. Actually, Californians also can’t vote for their president when they live in Puerto Rico. No resident of Puerto Rico can vote in a presidential election.
This is because Puerto Rico is not a state, and therefore doesn’t have any Electors. The Electors are the people who actually vote for the president. The people living in states feel as though they’re voting for their president, but they’re really sharing their views with the Electors for their state. The Electors represent the people of their state.
Each state gets three Electors automatically, and then more according to the population of the state. In most states, all the Electoral votes go to the candidate who got the majority of votes in the election. Laws vary from state to state, but most states require Electors to vote for the winning candidate. Some states divide the votes among candidates in proportion to the votes in the election in that state. Some states levy a fine on any Elector who votes for a different candidate from the state winner.
This video actually argues against the institution of the Electoral College, pointing out that it has allowed a candidate to win the popular vote but lose the presidency three times, for a 5% failure rate.
Now – with the results of the 2016 election indicating that President-elect Trump lost the popular vote – it has actually been four times rather than three. There is renewed controversy over the Electoral College, and some Americans are calling for the end of the institution or even lobbying with their Electors to change their vote. Those who favor the Electoral College point out that it gives small states a say in the election and prevents heavily populated areas from overwhelming the interests of rural areas. CGP Grey disagrees, and you can see his response in the video.
But one thing the Electoral College system certainly does is to keep the people of Puerto Rico from voting, even though they are citizens of the United States. Since states — rather than citizens — vote in the Electoral College system, the 3.3 million citizens of Puerto Rico have no say in the presidential election.
Ending the Electoral College process would open the door to voting for the United States territory of Puerto Rico.