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American Democracy and the Electoral College

Lecture Center for Global Humanities Lecture/Seminar Series

Robert Alexander

Robert Alexander

In the aftermath of the 2016 election, heated calls to abolish the Electoral College were made in large part because the winning candidate received nearly 3 million fewer votes from across the country than their opponent. At the same time, many lauded the institution for working as intended—particularly as it relates to federalism. Debate over the body continues to ferment as the 2020 election looms. Alexander's book, Representation and the Electoral College, examines the origin, evolution, and practice of the Electoral College. Much of the controversy relating to the institution revolves around whether one relies on the original Electoral College or the evolved Electoral College to inform their perspective. Understanding the origin and evolution of the body allows us to more appropriately evaluate contemporary arguments over the institution. This lecture will discuss how the original body has changed and what these changes have meant for representation regarding the Electoral College. Alexander will spend particular attention examining a commonly overlooked feature of the Electoral College—presidential electors. The behavior of these mostly anonymous individuals is critical to the operation of the body. Having gathered the most extensive dataset on electors, there is much more happening beneath the surface than most realize. This was especially important in 2016.


Robert Alexander is a professor of political science at Ohio Northern University. He teaches a variety of courses in American politics. Dr. Alexander has been recognized for his teaching through numerous teaching awards. He has published two books examining the role of interest groups in the American political system and two books examining the Electoral College. His pioneering research on presidential electors has produced new insights on these mysterious, yet important political actors. His most recent book examines how the Electoral College performs relative to norms of representation. Alexander is a frequent contributor to media outlets, having been interviewed in hundreds of instances by print, television, and radio. He has appeared on C-SPAN, MSNBC and NPR’s Day to Day. He is a frequent contributor to CTV-Canada and has been cited by media throughout the world.


Portland Forum in Innovation Hall
716 Stevens Avenue
Portland, ME 04103

Assigned Reading

Robert Alexander, Representation and the Electoral College  (Oxford University Press, 2019)


5 p.m. in Global Plaza, Innovation Hall


(207) 221-4435

American Democracy and the Electoral College Poster
6:00 PM
Portland Forum in Innovation Hall

Portland Campus

Free and open to the public