Your Guide To The Electoral College

The voting isn’t over on Election Day. Here’s how the U.S. actually chooses its president.

What is the Electoral College?

It may sound like a school, but it’s not. It’s a group of 538 people from all 50 states and Washington, D.C., called electors. According to the Constitution, they are officially responsible for electing the president and vice president.

It may sound like a school, but it’s not. It’s a group of 538 people called electors. They come from all 50 states and Washington, D.C. According to the Constitution, they are officially responsible for electing the president and
vice president.

How did this system come about?

As the Framers drafted the Constitution in 1787, they clashed over how the president should be chosen. Some thought that citizens should vote directly for the president. Others argued that average citizens weren’t educated enough to decide. They thought that Congress should pick the president. In the end, the two sides came up with a compromise, creating a system that came to be known as the Electoral College.

The Framers drafted the Constitution in 1787. During the process, they clashed over how the president should be chosen. Some thought that citizens should vote directly for the president. Others argued that average citizens weren’t educated enough to decide. They thought that Congress should pick the president. In the end, the two sides came up with a compromise, creating a system that came to be known as the Electoral College.


What is Election Day really all about?

On November 3, voters will cast their ballots in the popular vote. They will see the candidates’ names on the ballot, but technically they’ll be voting for a slate of electors who have pledged to support a particular candidate.

On November 3, voters will cast their ballots in the popular vote. They will see the candidates’ names on the ballot, but technically they’ll be voting for a slate of electors who have pledged to support a particular candidate.

How many electors does each state get?

Each state has a number of electors equal to its total number of senators and members of the House of Representatives. For example, Texas has 2 senators and 36 representatives, so it has 38 electors. Each state has two senators, but because the number of representatives is based on population, states with more people have more electors. (Although Washington, D.C., has no senators or voting representatives, it still has three electors.)

Each state has a number of electors equal to its total number of senators and members of the House of Representatives. For example, Texas has 2 senators and 36 representatives, so it has 38 electors. Each state has two senators, but the number of representatives is based on population. That means that states with more people have more electors. In the case of Washington, D.C., things are a little different. It has no senators or voting representatives, but it still has three electors.

How does a candidate win?

In most states, the candidate who wins the popular vote gets all of that state’s electoral votes. (Maine and Nebraska have a different system.) That means states that have a lot of electors—like California, Texas, and New York—play a big role in the outcome of an election. States in which it’s hard to predict who will win—known as swing states or battleground states—are also key. A candidate must win at least 270 electoral votes (a majority of the total 538)
to become president.

In most states, the candidate who wins the popular vote gets all of that state’s electoral votes. Maine and Nebraska have a different system. Some states—like California, Texas, and New York—have a lot of electors. These states play a big role in the outcome of an election. States in which it’s hard to predict who will win are known as swing states or battleground states. They are also key. A candidate must win at least 270 electoral votes (a majority of the total 538) to become president.

When do the electors pick the president?

The electors meet in their respective state capitals to cast their votes in December, about a month after Election Day. Electors almost always vote for the candidate they have pledged to support. But the system isn’t perfect. To find out why, read our Debate.

The electors meet in their respective state capitals to cast their votes. It takes place in December, about a month after Election Day. Electors almost always vote for the candidate they have pledged to support. But the system isn’t perfect. To find out why, read our Debate.

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