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Trump's Election Calls Attention To Electoral College And Small Federal Agency

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Oliver Potts, the director of the Office of the Federal Register, oversees the Electoral College.

So here's a riddle: What college doesn't have a campus, or professors, or students or even a football team?

Give up? The Electoral College!

OK, that was a little juvenile (if you really want to bring back your childhood, here's a video explaining the Electoral College by Schoolhouse Rock.)

But there are a lot of misconceptions about the Electoral College, according to Oliver Potts, director of the Office of the Federal Register. The college, he said, is not a place or entity or organization, "it's a process."

Potts's agency is best known for publishing all of the federal regulations and other policies, what Potts calls "the daily business of the federal government." And thanks to a reorganization after World War II, the Federal Register is also the custodian of the Electoral College.

Potts said his office is essentially the institutional memory of the college, keeping current with the process. "We remember what it is and we remind the states, because there are often changes between elections in state office holders.

If you voted on Election Day, you actually chose an elector for president. And that's why Trump won and not Hillary Clinton — she leads the popular vote by more than two million votes, but Trump claimed an electoral majority with 306 electoral votes to Clinton's 232.

On December 19th, electors will go to their respective state capitols and cast their ballots for president. The Federal Register makes sure everything is in order — first, that the electors are eligible, and once they've voted that the paperwork has been signed and properly sealed before sending it on to Congress.

Potts said a lot of people think the Federal Register can somehow affect the outcome of the election. He said his office has been getting calls, letters and some 2,000 emails.

"Some of them are very long and they have a lot of emotion in them," Potts said, like this one from a Trump supporter:

"The Democrats are now trying to abolish the electoral process, have votes recounted and change your minds. I am begging you, for the sake of my children, to not bring about that change. You made the correct choice in electing Donald Trump to begin with, and you need to stick by what has been done. We do not need more corruption in our government."

Potts sid each email is answered by someone in his office. To that writer, they explained the Federal Register's role and the background of the Electoral College.

One the office received from a Clinton supporter urged, "please vote your conscience. Donald Trump is not for the American people." Potts said the office will explain that "we're not the Electoral College and we're not actually voting."

Potts says the Federal Register is "pleased" to have the Electoral College as part of its responsibility, and that's it's rewarding to provide information about it to the public.

Even if a lot of people don't quite understand how it works, and why there are no classes.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit

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