the Electoral College Works:
Each state is allocated a
number of Electors equal to the number of its U.S. Senators (always
2) plus the number of its U.S. Representatives (which may change each
decade according to the size of each state's population as determined
in the Census).
The political parties (or
independent candidates) in each state submit to the state's chief election
official a list of individuals pledged to their candidate for president
and equal in number to the state's electoral vote. Usually, the major
political parties select these individuals either in their state party
conventions or through appointment by their state party leaders while
third parties and independent candidates merely designate theirs.
Members of Congress and employees of the federal government are prohibited
from serving as an Elector in order to maintain the balance between
the legislative and executive branches of the federal government.
After their caucuses and primaries, the major parties nominate their
candidates for president and vice president in their national conventions
traditionally held in the summer preceding the election. (Third parties
and independent candidates follow different procedures according to
the individual state laws). The names of the duly nominated candidates
are then officially submitted to each state's chief election official
so that they might appear on the general election ballot.
On the Tuesday following
the first Monday of November in years divisible by four, the people
in each state cast their ballots for the party slate of Electors representing
their choice for president and vice president (although as a matter
of practice, general election ballots normally say "Electors for"
each set of candidates rather than list the individual Electors on each
slate). (Yep, this is what we know as the presidential election.)
Whichever party slate wins the most popular votes in the state becomes
that state's Electors-- so that, in effect, whichever presidential ticket
gets the most popular votes in a state wins all the Electors of that
state. [The two exceptions to this are Maine and Nebraska where two
Electors are chosen by statewide popular vote and the remainder by the
popular vote within each Congressional district].
On the Monday following the second Wednesday of December (as established
in federal law) each state's Electors meet in their respective state
capitals and cast their electoral votes-one for president and one for
In order to prevent Electors from voting only for "favorite sons"
of their home state, at least one of their votes must be for a person
from outside their state (though this is seldom a problem since the
parties have consistently nominated presidential and vice presidential
candidates from different states).
The electoral votes are then sealed and transmitted from each state
to the President of the Senate who, on the following January 6, opens
and reads them before both houses of the Congress.
The candidate for president with the most electoral votes, provided
that it is an absolute majority (one over half of the total), is declared
president. Similarly, the vice presidential candidate with the absolute
majority of electoral votes is declared vice president.
In the event no one obtains an absolute majority of electoral votes
for president, the U.S. House of Representatives (as the chamber closest
to the people) selects the president from among the top three contenders
with each state casting only one vote and an absolute majority of the
states being required to elect. Similarly, if no one obtains an absolute
majority for vice president, then the U.S. Senate makes the selection
from among the top two contenders for that office.
At noon on January 20, the duly elected president and vice president
are sworn into office.
Federal Election Commission Web site.)
to Election Headquarters