Common Questions About the Electoral College

Common Questions About the Electoral College

Every four years, voters from across the country gather at the polls to choose the next President. This makes it seem like the President is elected by popular vote, but in reality, they are actually chosen by the Electoral College. So, how do our votes help elect our next President? Here we answer many of the common questions Americans ask themselves about the Electoral College and the voting process.

How does the Electoral College work?

Common Questions About the Electoral College

Each state has a certain number of electoral votes. The number of electoral votes each state has is decided by combining the number of senators (two) with the number of representatives. In forty-eight states, a candidate will win all of the available electoral votes once they win the majority of the popular vote. In Nebraska and Maine, however, electoral votes are assigned by proportional representation. This means that the candidate with the most popular votes wins two electoral votes (from the two senators) and the remaining are allocated district by district.

How are electors selected?

Electors are the people who cast the electoral votes that decide an election. In other words, the popular vote decides how the electors will vote, but actual people must be selected to make those votes. These electors are chosen by the political parties in their respective states.

Do electors have to vote for the person who won their state?

Yes and no. While the Constitution says nothing about it, many state laws require electors to vote for their party’s candidate if that candidate won the majority of the state’s popular vote. Other states do not have such a law, but it is still common practice for electors to vote for the person who won their state.

How many votes do you need to win?

A candidate must reach at least 270 electoral votes in order to win the election. If no candidate reaches that point, then the election is sent to the House of Representatives.

Can you lose the popular vote but win the Electoral College?

Yes. Since, electoral votes are based on the number of senators and representatives, it is possible to win the Electoral College but not the popular vote. This occurred in 2000 and 2016.

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