With Election Day behind us, you may be hearing a lot about the Electoral College and America's unique way of picking a president. So just what is the Electoral College?
For starters, the Electoral College is not actually a college. Nor is it even a place. Instead, the Electoral College is a process established by our Founding Fathers as something in-between a direct popular vote and a vote by only members of Congress, according to the National Archives.
Under the Electoral College process, citizens actually vote for electors, and not the president directly. The electors we choose will gather in December and officially vote for our next president.
Just who are these electors?
Each candidate running for president has his or her own group of electors in your state. You likely don't know your electors' names, as they are generally chosen by each candidate's political party. But when you vote for a presidential candidate, you are in fact voting for the candidate's electors, not the candidate himself.
Most states have a "winner-take-all" system that awards all electors to the winning presidential candidate in that state. However, Maine and Nebraska have a variation of "proportional representation," according to the National Archives.
After Election Day, each state's governor will prepare a "Certificate of Ascertainment" declaring the winning presidential candidate in the state and showing which electors will represent your state at the meeting of the electors in December.
That meeting is where each state's electors cast their votes for president and vice president. The electors' votes are counted in Congress during the first week of January, and only at this point is the president officially selected.
In total, there are 538 electors in the country. Every state has a different number of electors, and that number depends upon how big the state is by population. A majority of 270 electoral votes is required to elect the president.
- What are the qualifications to be an Elector? (National Archives)
- Browse Election Campaign & Political Lawyers by Location (FindLaw)
- Time Off to Vote Laws Vary by State (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life)
- 7 Polling Place Legal Reminders for Election Day (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life)