The Electoral College (EC) is the group of people that elect the United States President and Vice President. When Americans go to the polls, they’re not directly voting for the candidates, but for ‘electors’.
In 1787 the Founding Fathers created it as an alternative to the popular vote. In part to ensure smaller states had a say, but also to appease southern slaveholding states who wanted their population size to be reflected, even though many of those people (slaves) couldn’t vote.
Who appoints the electors?
The political parties in each state appoint the electors. So, if you vote for Joe Biden and he wins the popular vote in that state, electors chosen by the Democrats will vote for him to take the presidency.
How many Electoral College votes does each state get?
To reflect its population size, the number of EC votes a state has is equal to the number of seats it has in the US Congress (the House of Representatives and the Senate). So a minimum of three and a maximum of 55.
How many EC votes win the election?
There are 538 electors in the Electoral College, so a candidate needs to win 270 electoral votes (half of the electoral college votes plus one), to reach the White House. It’s why the election is sometimes referred to as the “Race to 270”.
How does a candidate win EC votes?
If a candidate wins the popular vote they are awarded all of the state’s EC votes. This is the case in all but two states and it’s why swing states are so important: they may only be won by a small percentage, but the winner takes all.
What’s a ‘swing state’?
A swing state is somewhere where the two major parties have a similar level of support, usually resulting in a tight race. It means the state’s popular vote can change with each election.
What are the swing states in this election?
This year, experts and analysts believe that Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Arizona, Florida, and North Carolina are the six that will most likely determine the outcome of the election.
Can a candidate win the popular vote but lose the election?
Yes. This has happened five times, including in the 2016 election. Hillary Clinton amassed more than 2.5 million votes more than Trump, but because Trump got more votes by a small margin in a few key states, he gained their electoral college votes.