Electoral college explained: how Biden faces an uphill battle in the US election | US news

Who elects the US president?

When Americans cast their ballots for the US president, they are actually voting for a representative of that candidate’s party known as an elector. There are 538 electors who then vote for the president on behalf of the people in their state.

Each state is assigned a certain number of these electoral votes, based on the number of congressional districts they have, plus two additional votes representing the state’s Senate seats. Washington DC is also assigned three electoral votes, despite having no voting representation in Congress. A majority of 270 of these votes is needed to win the presidency.

The process of nominating electors varies by state and by party, but is generally done one of two ways. Ahead of the election, political parties either choose electors at their national conventions, or they are voted for by the party’s central committee.

The electoral college nearly always operates with a winner-takes-all system, in which the candidate with the highest number of votes in a state claims all of that state’s electoral votes. For example, in 2016, Trump beat Clinton in Florida by a margin of just 2.2%, but that meant he claimed all 29 of Florida’s crucial electoral votes.

Such small margins in a handful of key swing states meant that, regardless of Clinton’s national vote lead, Trump was able to clinch victory in several swing states and therefore win more electoral college votes.

Biden could face the same hurdle in November, meaning he will need to focus his attention on a handful of battleground states to win the presidency.

A chart showing electoral college votes by state

The unequal distribution of electoral votes

While the number of electoral votes a state is assigned somewhat reflects its population, the minimum of three votes per state means that the relative value of electoral votes varies across America.

The least populous states like North and South Dakota and the smaller states of New England are overrepresented because of the required minimum of three electoral votes. Meanwhile, the states with the most people – California, Texas and Florida – are underrepresented in the electoral college.

Wyoming has one electoral college vote for every 193,000 people, compared with California’s rate of one electoral vote per 718,000 people. This means that each electoral vote in California represents over three times as many people as one in Wyoming. These disparities are repeated across the country.

A visual of population per electoral vote by state

Who does it favour?

Experts have warned that, after returning two presidents that got fewer votes than their opponents since 2000, the electoral college is flawed.

In 2000, Al Gore won over half a million more votes than Bush, yet Bush became president after winning Florida by just 537 votes. In all, the US has had five presidents who lost the overall popular vote but won the election.

A chart showing recent election outcomes by popular vote and electoral college margins

Professor George Edwards III, at Texas A&M

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Lakers reportedly want career-ending injury exception on Luol Deng’s salary, but are facing an uphill battle

Luol Deng hasn’t played for the Lakers since Oct. 19, 2017, but for the next several weeks, he is perhaps the single most important player to their offseason plans. The Lakers signed Deng to a four-year, $72 million contract in 2016. In 2018, they used the stretch provision to waive that contract and spread the remaining cap hit over several years. The Lakers still owe Deng $10 million, which is split into $5 million increments over the next two seasons and is guaranteed to be paid to Deng no matter what, but according to The Athletic’s Shams Charania, the Lakers have requested a career-ending injury application in the hopes of clearing that money off of their cap sheet. 

Why does that matter? There are two major reasons, one for each of the next two offseasons:

  • If the Lakers want to use the Non-Taxpayer Mid-Level Exception on a free agent this offseason, they would be hard-capped at the luxury tax apron, which was $138.9 million last season. That exception would allow the Lakers to sign a starting-caliber player in free agency. Last season, the first-year salary of that exception was just under $9.3 million, whereas the Taxpayer equivalent was only around $5.7 million. Assuming a new max contract for Anthony Davis and a frozen cap, the Lakers would enter the offseason with around $102.1 million committed (including their first-round pick). That is almost $37 million below the potential hard cap, money that vanishes quickly with a Mid-Level Player and a new contract for Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. Clearing $5 million would allow the Lakers far more flexibility in finishing off its roster around those two signings. 
  • The Lakers intentionally signed players to short-term contracts in 2019 with the intention of keeping their cap clean for 2021 and a potential run at Giannis Antetokounmpo. Given the pandemic’s impact on that cap, it would have been nearly impossible for the Lakers to get to true max space in 2021 with Deng on the books. LeBron James has a $39.2 million player option, Anthony Davis, on the second year of a max contract, would be at around $35.3 million, and Deng is still stuck on the books at $5 million. That’s $79.5 million for three players, only two of which actually contribute. Throw in around $10 million on Incomplete Roster Charges, and the cap would need to come in at around $125 million for the Lakers to have any chance at true max space, and that’s with literally every other player off of the books (which won’t happen either). If Deng is cleared, though, there might be a more feasible scenario in which James, Davis and Antetokounmpo (or another potential third star) all leave a bit of money on the table. It’s not likely, but it’s worth considering. 

So those are the stakes here. The more pertinent question is, how likely is it that the Lakers actually succeed in getting this career-ending injury waiver? The answer is… not very, but it’s possible. 

On paper, the Lakers

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