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What is the electoral college?

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Question: What is the electoral college?
Answer: The electoral college is the body which actually chooses the President of the United States in December of the election year. When people vote in their state for President and Vice President, they are actually voting for the electors for that candidate's party. Therefore, in most states of the union, whichever candidate receives the most votes will get all the electors for that state.

As an example, if the majority of voters in Florida vote for the Republican candidate for president, then all 29 of the electoral votes will go to the Republican electors. Electors are pledged to vote for the presidential and vice presidential candidate for whom they were chosen. While some states have passed laws that require their electors to vote with the popular vote, there are a number that have no such stipulation. They are free to choose whoever they want or even refrain from voting entirely. However, this rarely happens. When they do go against their chosen candidate, they are called 'faithless electors'. The last example of a faithless elector was in 2004 when the elector seemingly accidentally cast their vote for Johnathan Ewards instead of Johnathan Edwards. Before this, an elector for Washington, D.C. pledged to vote for Al Gore and Joe Lieberman, did not vote at all in protest for D.C.'s lack of representation in Congress.

The method by which electors is determined by each state's legislators. Some states use a primary system to pick electors while others allow the party conventions to choose. According to Article II, Section 1, Clause 2 of the US Constitution, electors are not allowed to be either an elected or appointed federal official.

Learn more about the electoral college:

  • Why did the Founding Fathers create electors?
  • How many total electoral votes are there?
  • How many electoral votes does a candidate need to win?
  • Which states have the most electoral votes?
  • How many electors does each state have?
  • What about Washington, D.C. and the electoral vote?
  • What happens if there is a tie in the electoral college?
  • Who are the electors?
  • What procedure is followed for the electors to vote?
  • Has someone received a plurality of the vote yet lost in the electoral college?
  • Has a tie ever occurred in the electoral college? When?
  • Why don't the candidates get a proportion of the electoral vote?
  • If the state's winner chooses electors, won't the person with the most votes win?
  • Why have elections when the state's winner will receive all the electoral votes?
  • When do we finally have an official winner?
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