What is a Popular Vote? - Definition & Overview

What is a Popular Vote? - Definition & Overview
Coming up next: What Is the Electoral College? - Definition & Explanation

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  • 0:01 Definition of a Popular Vote
  • 1:20 Electoral vs. Popular Vote
  • 3:05 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Adam Jordan

Adam is a special educator with a Ph.D. in Education

There are many ways to determine the winner of an election. One of the most common and simple methods is the popular vote. In this lesson, you will learn what constitutes a popular vote and how it works.

Definition of a Popular Vote

A popular vote works just like it sounds. A group of people vote on an issue or candidate. The votes are then tallied, and the issues or candidates are rank-ordered. The person or issue with the most votes wins. Therefore, a popular vote is really just a method of selecting a candidate or adopting an issue based on a majority of the total voters in an election. It really is quite simple.

Let's take a look at how a simple majority, or popular vote, would work.

Consider three candidates for Employee of the Month: Bob, Cindy, and Diane. An email is sent out to all employees identifying the three candidates for this month's award. All employees are instructed to anonymously place their choice for Employee of the Month on a slip of paper and to place it in a ballot box located outside of the main office. There are 100 employees, including Bob, Cindy, and Diane, who are all eligible to vote, as well.

The election runs from Monday until Friday. On Friday, the CEO collects the ballot box and tallies the votes. Bob received 21 votes, Cindy received 45 votes, and Diane received 34 votes. According to the popular vote, Cindy is the new Employee of the Month because she received more votes than Bob or Diane.

Electoral vs. Popular Vote

Not all elections are decided by popular vote. For example, in the United States, presidential elections are decided through the Electoral College. Stated simply, each state has a certain number of electors. Each state has as many electors as they do members of Congress. The president must earn an absolute majority, or more than half of the available electors. There are 538 available electors in the United States so a president must earn a minimum of 270.

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