Electoral Vote: How It Works

Local News

President-elect Donald Trump is expected to win 306 electoral votes in making his presidency official, but how does the system actually work?

When you cast your ballot on Election Day, you don’t directly vote for who you want as president. Instead, you really vote for electors who represent the political party of your candidate.

“The technical electoral college votes are cast by a slate of electors that a candidate and their party select beforehand, so you are voting for the president, but technically, the way the votes are going to be cast to the individuals are on that slate of electors,” Mansfield University Associate Professor of Political Science Jeff Bosworth said.

It’s compromised of 435 U.S. House of Representatives, 100 senators (two from each state), and three electors from Washington D.C. which total 538 people.

Each state’s number of electors is equal to its number of U.S. Senators and U.S. Representatives.

For example, New York has 29 electors composed of two senators and 27 U.S. Representatives.

If a presidential candidate wins the majority of votes in that state, he or she wins all of the electors. It’s a winner-take-all system. This takes place in all but two states: Nebraska and Maine. These states use an alternative method called the Congressional District Method.

Trump won the popular vote in Texas, so he won 38 electoral votes. Hillary Clinton won the popular vote in New York, so she won 29 votes.

The New York Times says that electors can be state party leaders or elected officials. They can even have a personal connection to a presidential candidate. For example, Bill Clinton is a New York elector this year.

The candidate who wins the majority of votes (270 or more) wins. This is the 538 total votes divided by two. Trump was projected to receive 306 of those votes on election night which means 37 electors would have to go faithless in order for Clinton to win.
 
“A faithless elector is somebody who was elected under one slate, somebody was elected as a Donald Trump supporter or a Hillary elector, who then later decides that they don’t want to go with that individual,” Bosworth said. “It happens very, very few times in our history.”
 
According to fairvote.org, 157 electors have gone faithless since the system was implemented in the 1700’s. 
 
If it results in a tie, the House of Representatives then elect the President with each state counting as one vote, but this too is very unlikely to happen. 
 
Even though Clinton won the popular vote, Trump won the battleground (or swing) states like Florida, Pennsylvania, and a few more which put him over the edge. 
 
The last time a candidate won the popular vote but did not win the electoral vote was in 2000 when Al Gore ran against George H. W. Bush. 
 
There has been pushback to change the system, but an amendment to the U.S. Constitution would need to be made. 
 
The official vote count takes place on Friday, January 6th with Vice President Joe Biden presiding over it.
 

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