What is the electoral college?

In The United States, the presidential election has some particularities. Accordingly, one of them is the electoral college. Truly, the president and the vice president are not elected directly by citizens. Rather, they’re chosen by “electors” through a process called the Electoral College and the counting of the electoral votes by Congress.

How to become President of the United States infographic. See description below.
Source: USA.GOV

The process

According to The National Archives and Records Administration, the process consists of the  “selection of electors, the meeting of the electors where they vote for President and Vice President, and the counting of the electoral votes by Congress”. Forsooth, the process of using electors comes from the Constitution. As a compromise between a popular vote by citizens and a vote in Congress.     

Following the constitution, the first Monday after the second Wednesday in December, electors meet in their respective states and submit separate ballots for the president and vice president. Then, during a joint session of Congress, congress counts all votes. On Jan. 20, the new president takes the oath of office at the inauguration.

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The distribution

The United States of America has 538 electors. Therefore, in order to win the Electoral College and clinch the presidency, a candidate must win at least 270 electors. Currently, each state gets an equal number as it has members of Congress (House and Senate). In addition, Washington, D.C. gets three electors. But, Maine and Nebraska divide up their electoral college votes according to the proportion of votes each candidate receives.

The allocations below follow the 2010 Census and it is valid for the 2020 presidential election.

Source: archives.gov

Who are they?

State’s political parties choose their own potential electors. However, Article II, section 1, clause 2 provides that no Senator or Representative, or Person holding an Office of Trust or Profit under the United States, shall be appointed an elector. As a historical matter, the 14th Amendment provides that State officials who have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the United States or given aid and comfort to its enemies are disqualified from serving as electors. This prohibition relates to the post-Civil War era(National archives)

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How they vote?

The state by state result of the election indicates which electors will cast their votes in favor of their party’s candidate. Usually, it a “winner-take-all elector system.” As an illustration, if the Republican Party wins New york’s popular vote, all 29 of its electoral votes belong to the Republican electors. Nonetheless, Maine and Nebraska have a proportional system. Consequently, those two states can award electors to more than one candidate.

Can an elector vote for a candidate who didn’t win the popular vote?

Theoretically, an elector can vote for any candidate regardless of who voters backed. Nevertheless, in effect, if an elector vote goes against their state’s presidential pick, they are termed “faithless”. In recent memory, this event occurred in 2000 and 2016. In this case, both presidential candidates respectively Goerges Bush and Donald Trump won the electoral college but not the popular vote.

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