United States Election Assistance Comittee

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Presidential Elections and the Electoral College

from: Jessica Myers on Apr 19, 2012

Presidential Elections and the Electoral College
Last week we talked about how Election Day results are tabulated in the United States. Tabulation at local election offices and certification of those results by the state are but two steps in the process of electing a President.

Electoral College
The Electoral College is a result of a compromise reached during the Constitutional Convention of 1787. The Electoral College as it is today is very similar to the one used to elect our nation’s first President. The process was modified by amendment in 1804 and changed minimally by Federal and State statutes in the intervening years. The entire process is outlines in Title 3, Chapter 1 of the U.S. Code, but we attempt to provide a summary here.

How will it work in 2012?
Each State’s number of electors is equal to the number of Representatives and Senators it has in Congress. Prior to the Presidential Election, each political party submits a roster of electors to each state individually. After Election Day, the roster of electors for the winning party makes up the Electoral College for each State. After the results from the November 6 election are tabulated and certified, the State transmits the certified results and names of the electors to the Archivist of the U.S.

Electors from one state will not meet electors from any other state during this process. Electors in the Electoral College from each state meet only once, on December 17, 2012, at a location determined by each state.

Once convened, the electors in each state cast one vote for President and one vote for Vice President. From these votes a certificate is created with two lists of the results for President and Vice President. Four copies identical copies of this list are created and a copy is mailed to the President of the Senate (Vice President of the U.S.), Secretary of State of their state, the Archivist of the U.S. and the District Judge of the location where the Electoral College met.

Then, on January 6, 2013, the Vice President of the U.S. presides over a joint session of Congress where the certificates from each Electoral College are opened and read aloud. After the votes are counted, the Vice President announces the results and calls for any objections. If there are no objections and each candidate receives at least 270 of the 538 Electoral College votes, the election results are official.

For more information, please see the EAC’s whitepaper on The Electoral College. If you have additional questions, please contact Jessica Myers at jmyers@eac.gov or via Twitter @EACgov.

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