What Is The Electoral College?

What exactly is the electoral college? Learn how the U.S. electoral college elects the President of the United States.

Did you know that when you vote for the President of the United States you are actually voting for the electors nominated from your state to choose that person as President? The electoral college is mandated by the U.S. constitution to include representatives from each state and meet after the popular election for the President of the United States to select the President.

Each state appoints the same number of electors as represent the state in the Senate and House of Representatives. Two Senators are elected from each state and the number of Representatives each state is entitled to in Congress is based on population from the U.S. Census. Washington, D.C. is allowed to appoint 3 electors. The current total number of Representatives in Congress is 435. With the total of 100 Senators and three electors from Washington, D. C., that makes the total of the electoral college 538. That means that to win the job of Presidency of the United States a candidate needs 270 electoral votes.

The political parties in each state submit a list of electors equal to the number of electors from that state to the state's chief election official. The electors and the political parties' candidate for president are usually chosen at the political parties' nominating conventions held in the summer months of a national election year. Members of Congress and federal employees are prohibited from serving as electors.



On Election Day, the Tuesday following the first Monday in November in years divisible by four, registered voters in each state elect the candidate nominated by that state's electors. When you vote for the President of the United States, you will notice that the ballot reads "Electors for" and then the candidate's name.

The party's candidate that wins a majority of the popular vote wins all of the electors from that state. The exception to this is in Maine in Nebraska where two electors are chosen by the winner of the popular vote and the remainder of the popular vote in each Congressional district.

On the Monday following the second Wednesday of December, the electors meet in their respective state capitals and cast one vote each for the President and Vice President. To prevent electors from voting only for a "favorite son" candidate from their state, one vote must be for a candidate from another state. The presidential and vice presidential candidate with an absolute majority of the vote, one vote more than half of the total(270), is elected to office.

If the President is not selected by an absolute majority, the members of the House of Representatives casts one vote per state among the top three candidates with the most votes from the electoral college. A majority of two-thirds is then needed from the House of Representatives to elect the President.

If the House of Representatives is unable to choose the President by a majority, the current Vice President will act as President before the fourth day of March. The person with the greatest number of votes as Vice President will be the Vice President. If the electoral college was unable to select a Vice President by a majority, then the Senate shall choose the Vice President from the two candidates who received the most votes from the electoral college. A two-thirds majority is needed for the Senate to select the Vice President of the United States.

On January 20, the President and Vice President are sworn into office to serve a four-year term.

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