a small group of people who have the responsibility of electing someone to an important position
the people chosen by voters in individual states to elect the president and vice president of the United States
Origin and usage
The compound noun electoral college is formed from the adjective ‘electoral’ and the noun ‘college’. It has been in use since the 16th century.
Once the voting in the US presidential election is over, it’s the turn of the Electoral College to elect the new president and vice president on the basis of the votes cast in the different states. We wrote about the origins and operation of the Electoral College in an earlier post which you can read here. Electoral colleges have existed in other places and at other times, notably in Europe before the 19th century, where electors from different states came together to elect the man who would become the Holy Roman Emperor. Today a college of cardinals meets to elect the new Pope, while in France local elected representatives are responsible for electing senators. The meaning of college used in this expression is that of a group of people with certain rights, interests and privileges in common. It is closely related to sense 2 in the Macmillan Dictionary entry, and these days mostly refers to organizations that represent members of different medical professions, such as surgeons, nurses, vets and so on.
You can read more posts about American elections and the language associated with them by searching the blog with the tag ‘US politics’.