How the Electoral College Works

The United States Electoral College is responsible for electing the President and the Vice President of the country based on the popular votes received by each candidate. Each state is entitled to a specified amount of electoral college votes and those votes are outlined by Article II, Section 1, Clause 2 of the Constitution of the United States. The territories of the United States are not represented in the Electoral College. When the citizens of the United States cast their votes in Presidential elections, they are actually casting their votes for electors. The electors than cast their votes for the appropriate candidate based on the votes of the citizens. The 12th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States declares that each elector is to cast one vote for President and one vote for Vice President. A candidate for the President of the United States must receive an absolute majority of electoral votes, currently set at 270, to win the Presidency. The electors are appointed based on the total membership of both Houses of Congress. There are 435 Representatives and 100 Senators. There are also three electors for the District of Columbia, which brings the total of electors to 538. Each state is allocated as many electors as it has Representatives and Senators in the United States Congress. The most populous states have the most seats in the House of Representatives, which would give those states the most electoral college votes in a Presidential election. The key electoral college dates and events that occur in an election year are as follows (these dates were for the recent Presidential election):

  • November 4, 2008 - General Election:
    The voters in each State choose electors to serve in the Electoral College. As soon as election results are final, the States prepare seven original "Certificates of Ascertainment" of the electors chosen, and send one original along with two certified copies to the Archivist of the United States at the Office of the Federal Register.
  • December 15, 2008 - Meeting of Electors:
    The electors in each State meet to select the President and Vice President of the United States. The electors record their votes on six "Certificates of Vote," which are paired with the six remaining original "Certificates of Ascertainment." The electors sign, seal and certify the packages of electoral votes and immediately send them to the Federal and State officials listed in these instructions.
  • December 24, 2008 - Deadline for Receipt of Electoral Votes:
    The President of the Senate, the Archivist of the United States, and other designated Federal and State officials must have the electoral votes in hand.
  • January 6, 2009 - Counting Electoral Votes in Congress:
    The Congress meets in joint session to count the electoral votes (unless Congress passes a law to change the date).

During the 2004 and 2008 Presidential elections, California, Texas, New York and Florida had the most electoral votes in the election. California had the most out of all 50 states and the District of Columbia with 55, Texas has 34, New York had 31 and Florida had 27. The members of the Electoral College, as defined by Article II, Section 1, Clause 2 of the Constitution states that:

"Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors, equal to the whole Number of Senators and Representatives to which the State may be entitled in the Congress: but no Senator or Representative, or Person holding an Office of Trust or Profit under the United States, shall be appointed an Elector."

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