An Overview of the Electoral College Process

Sadie Conolly, Journalist

The process of electing the president of the United States is important to know about. The United States government uses the electoral college to determine the new president during an election rather than the popular vote. The process can be confusing, so I will do my best to put it into the simplest terms. The process I am describing in this overview is not based on one political party, and the examples relevant to the most recent election are based on facts and are not opinionated.


Let’s start with the question of what exactly is the electoral college? The electoral college is the process of states popular vote determining electors who vote for the president. Each state is delegated a certain number of electoral votes meaning a certain number of electors that will be appointed. The popular vote determines what candidate all the electoral votes go to in that state. The number of votes is dependent on the number of house representatives in that state or the number of congressional districts. Two votes are added on to that number for the two state senators. For example, California has 53 house representatives plus two votes for the two senators giving California a total of 55 electoral votes. 


Electors are appointed by each candidate’s party per state. The electors of each state vote to decide where the electoral votes will go depending on the state’s popular vote which is what the citizens vote for. The popular vote results can differ from the electoral college votes. The electors are not required to vote for the party who nominated them, however, electors are typically chosen for loyalty and excellent service to their political party. When you vote in the general election, you are voting to tell your state’s electors how to vote, which in turn helps the candidate you want as president gain our state’s electoral college votes. 


The exception to the “winner takes all” states are Maine and Nebraska, which use a split vote system to determine where their electoral votes go. The electors are chosen depending on the popular vote like all other states but two of the electoral votes are given to the winner of the popular vote rather than the electoral college electors. These votes are split between the districts of the state.  Typically all the votes go to the same candidate, but this year’s election was split. Nebraska’s votes split four to Trump and one to Biden and Maine’s votes split three to Biden and one to Trump. These votes are split between the districts of the state. 


This overview is by no means an all encompassing technical description of how exactly the electoral college works but is a basic summary to better general understanding about the election process and the methods behind the voting poll results we typically see. 


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