Electoral College Basics
- The Constitution and federal law regulates the election of the president and vice president.
- The Electoral College involves three steps: voters determine their state's group of electors in November when they vote for a presidential ticket, electors cast their ballots in December, and Congress counts the electoral votes in January.
- People do not directly elect the president and vice president. Instead, when people vote for a presidential ticket they actually choose a political party's group or "slate" of electors.
- The number of a state's electors equals its number of United States Senators and Representatives. Every state, including the District of Columbia, is guaranteed at least three electoral votes.
- The presidential ticket winning the most popular votes in a state receives all of that state's electoral votes. This is referred to as the "winner-take-all" method or "unit rule." Candidates coming in second or third do not receive any electoral votes of a state.
- Electors are generally loyal party supporters.
- The Electoral College does not meet at one location, but in all 50 states and the District of Columbia on the same day and at approximately the same time.
- A presidential ticket needs a majority of electoral votes to win the White House, currently 270 out of 538 electors.
- The winner-take-all selection of electors helps sustain the two-party system.