About the electors

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What are the qualifications to be an elector?

The U.S. Constitution contains very few provisions relating to the qualifications of electors. Article II, section 1, clause 2 provides that no Senator or Representative, or Person holding an Office of Trust or Profit under the United States, shall be appointed an elector. As a historical matter, the 14th Amendment provides that State officials who have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the United States or given aid and comfort to its enemies are disqualified from serving as electors. This prohibition relates to the post-Civil War era.

Each State's Certificates of Ascertainment confirms the names of its appointed electors. A State's certification of its electors is generally sufficient to establish the qualifications of electors.

Who selects the electors?

Choosing each State's electors is a two-part process. First, the political parties in each State choose slates of potential electors sometime before the general election. Second, during the general election, the voters in each State select their State's electors by casting their ballots.

The first part of the process is controlled by the political parties in each State and varies from State to State. Generally, the parties either nominate slates of potential electors at their State party conventions or they chose them by a vote of the party's central committee. This happens in each State for each party by whatever rules the State party and (sometimes) the national party have for the process. This first part of the process results in each Presidential candidate having their own unique slate of potential electors.

Political parties often choose individuals for the slate to recognize their service and dedication to that political party. They may be State elected officials, State party leaders, or people in the State who have a personal or political affiliation with their party's Presidential candidate. (For specific information about how slates of potential electors are chosen, contact the political parties in each State.)

The second part of the process happens during the general election. When the voters in each State cast votes for the Presidential candidate of their choice they are voting to select their State's electors. The potential electors' names may or may not appear on the ballot below the name of the Presidential candidates, depending on election procedures and ballot formats in each State.

The winning Presidential candidate's slate of potential electors are appointed as the State's electors—except in Nebraska and Maine, which have proportional distribution of the electors. In Nebraska and Maine, the State winner receives two electors and the winner of each congressional district (who may be the same as the overall winner or a different candidate) receives one elector. This system permits Nebraska and Maine to award electors to more than one candidate.

Do electors get to vote twice for President?

Electors do not vote twice for President. When they vote in the November general election, they aren’t electors yet; they are voting for themselves to be electors.  They are the only ones who actually vote for President, which they do at the meeting of the electors (the first Monday after the second Wednesday in December).

Are there restrictions on who the electors can vote for?

There is no Constitutional provision or Federal law that requires electors to vote according to the results of the popular vote in their States. Some States, however, require electors to cast their votes according to the popular vote. These pledges fall into two categories—electors bound by State law and those bound by pledges to political parties.

The U.S. Supreme Court has held that the Constitution does not require that electors be completely free to act as they choose and therefore, political parties may extract pledges from electors to vote for the parties' nominees. Some State laws provide that so-called "faithless electors" may be subject to fines or may be disqualified for casting an invalid vote and be replaced by a substitute elector. The Supreme Court decided (in 2020) that States can enact requirements on how electors vote. No elector has ever been prosecuted for failing to vote as pledged. However, several electors were disqualified and replaced, and others fined, in 2016 for failing to vote as pledged.

It is rare for electors to disregard the popular vote by casting their electoral vote for someone other than their party's candidate. Electors generally hold a leadership position in their party or were chosen to recognize years of loyal service to the party. Throughout our history as a nation, more than 99 percent of electors have voted as pledged.

The National Association of Secretaries of State (NASS) has compiled a brief summary of State laws about the various procedures, which vary from State to State, for selecting slates of potential electors and for conducting the meeting of the electors. You can download the document, "Summary: State Laws Regarding Presidential Electors ," from the NASS website .

If the electors vote for President, why should I vote in the general election?

During the general election your vote helps determine your State’s electors.  When you vote for a Presidential candidate, you aren’t actually voting for President.  You are telling your State which candidate you want your State to vote for at the meeting of electors. The States use these general election results (also known as the popular vote) to appoint their electors. The winning candidate’s State political party selects the individuals who will be electors.

https://www.archives.gov/electoral-college/electors#selection

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Electoral College Timeline of Events

Under the 23rd Amendment of the Constitution, the District of Columbia is allocated three electors and treated like a State for purposes of the Electoral College. For this reason, in the following discussion, the word “State” also refers to the District of Columbia and the word “Governor” also refers to the Mayor of the District of Columbia.

 

November 3, 2020—Election Day

(first Tuesday after the first Monday in November)

During the general election your vote helps determine your State's electors. When you vote for a Presidential candidate, you aren't actually voting for President. You are telling your State which candidate you want your State to vote for at the meeting of the electors. The States use these general election results (also known as the popular vote) to appoint their electors. The winning candidate's State political party selects the individuals who will be the electors.

Mid-November through December 14, 2020

After the presidential election, the Governor of your State prepares seven Certificates of Ascertainment. “As soon as practicable,” after the election results in your State are certified, the Governor sends one of those original Certificates of Ascertainment to the Archivist.

By December 8, 2020—States resolve controversies

(at least six days before the meeting of the electors)

States must make final decisions in any controversies over the appointment of their electors at least six days before the meeting of the electors. This is so their electoral votes will be presumed valid when presented to Congress. Decisions by States’ courts are conclusive, if decided under laws enacted before Election Day.

December 14, 2020—electors vote in their States

The electors meet in their respective States and vote for President and Vice President on separate ballots. The electors record their votes on six Certificates of Vote, which are paired with the six remaining Certificates of Ascertainment. The electors sign, seal, and certify six sets of electoral votes. A set of electoral votes consists of one Certificate of Ascertainment and one Certificate of Vote.

December 23, 2020—electoral votes arrive

Electoral votes (the Certificates of Vote) must be received by the President of the Senate and the Archivist no later than nine days after the meeting of the electors. If votes are lost or delayed, the Archivist may take extraordinary measures to retrieve duplicate originals.

On or before January 3, 2021—Archivist transfers Certificates to Congress

As the new Congress assembles, the Archivist transmits sets of Certificates to Congress, as requested. This generally happens when the Senate does not receive its set of Certificates on time. The transfer occurs in late December or early January when OFR’s Legal staff meets with representatives of the Secretary of the Senate and the Clerk of the House.

January 6, 2021—Congress counts the electoral votes

Congress meets in joint session to count the electoral votes. The Vice President, as President of the Senate, presides over the count and announces the results of the Electoral College vote. The President of the Senate then declares which persons, if any, have been elected President and Vice President of the United States.

If any objections to the electoral votes are made, they must be submitted in writing and be signed by at least one member of the House and one Senator. If objections are presented, the House and Senate withdraw to their respective chambers to consider the merits of the objection(s) under procedures set out in Federal law.

If no Presidential candidate wins at least 270 electoral votes (a majority of the 538 available votes), under the 12th Amendment to the Constitution the House of Representatives decides the Presidential election. If necessary, the House would elect the President by majority vote, choosing from among the three candidates who received the greatest number of electoral votes. The vote would be taken by State, with each State having one vote. (The District of Columbia does not vote because it doesn't have voting members in the House of Representatives.)

If no Vice Presidential candidate wins at least 270 electoral votes (a majority or the 538 available votes), under the 12th Amendment the Senate elects the Vice President. If necessary, the Senate would elect the Vice President by majority vote, choosing between the two candidates who received the greatest number of electoral votes. Each Senator would have one vote.

January 20, 2021 at Noon—Inauguration Day

The President-elect and Vice President-elect take the Oath of Office and become the President of the United States and Vice President of the United States, respectively.

https://www.archives.gov/electoral-college/key-dates

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Distribution of Electoral Votes

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Allocation among the States

Electoral votes are allocated among the States based on the Census. Every State is allocated a number of votes equal to the number of senators and representatives in its U.S. Congressional delegation—two votes for its senators in the U.S. Senate plus a number of votes equal to the number of its Congressional districts.

Under the 23rd Amendment of the Constitution, the District of Columbia is allocated three electors and treated like a State for purposes of the Electoral College.

Each State (which includes the District of Columbia for this discussion) decides how to appoint its electors. Currently all States use the popular vote results from the November general election to decide which political party chooses the individuals who are appointed

 

Allocation within each State

All States, except for Maine and Nebraska have a winner-take-all policy where the State looks only at the overall winner of the state-wide popular vote.  Maine and Nebraska, however, appoint individual electors based on the winner of the popular vote for each Congressional district and then 2 electors based on the winner of the overall state-wide popular vote. 

Even though Maine and Nebraska don't use a winner-take-all system, it is rare for either State to have a split vote.  Each has done so once: Nebraska in 2008 and Maine in 2016.

 

Current allocations

The allocations below are based on the 2010 Census. They are effective for the 2012, 2016, and 2020 presidential elections.

Total Electoral Votes:  538;   Majority Needed to Elect:  270

Alabama - 9 votes

Kentucky - 8 votes

North Dakota - 3 votes

Alaska - 3 votes

Louisiana - 8 votes

Ohio - 18 votes

Arizona - 11 votes

Maine - 4 votes

Oklahoma - 7 votes

Arkansas - 6 votes

Maryland - 10 votes

Oregon - 7 votes

California - 55 votes

Massachusetts - 11 votes

Pennsylvania - 20 votes

Colorado - 9 votes

Michigan - 16 votes

Rhode Island - 4 votes

Connecticut - 7 votes

Minnesota - 10 votes

South Carolina - 9 votes

Delaware - 3 votes

Mississippi - 6 votes

South Dakota - 3 votes

District of Columbia - 3 votes

Missouri - 10 votes

Tennessee - 11 votes

Florida - 29 votes

Montana - 3 votes

Texas - 38 votes

Georgia - 16 votes

Nebraska - 5 votes

Utah - 6 votes

Hawaii - 4 votes

Nevada - 6 votes

Vermont - 3 votes

Idaho - 4 votes

New Hampshire - 4 votes

Virginia - 13 votes

Illinois - 20 votes

New Jersey - 14 votes

Washington - 12 votes

Indiana - 11 votes

New Mexico - 5 votes

West Virginia - 5 votes

Iowa - 6 votes

New York - 29 votes

Wisconsin - 10 votes

Kansas - 6 votes

North Carolina - 15 votes

Wyoming - 3 votes

 

  • Each state gets as many electors as it has members of Congress (House and Senate). Including Washington, D.C.’s three electors, there are currently 538 electors in all. See the distribution of electors by state.

    Each state’s political parties choose their own slate of potential electors. Who is chosen to be an elector, how, and when varies by state.

  • After you cast your ballot for president, your vote goes to a statewide tally. In 48 states and Washington, D.C., the winner gets all the electoral votes for that state. Maine and Nebraska assign their electors using a proportional system.

    A candidate needs the vote of at least 270 electors—more than half of all electors—to win the presidential election.

    In most cases, a projected winner is announced on election night in November after you vote. But the actual Electoral College vote takes place in mid-December when the electors meet in their states. See the Electoral College timeline of events for the 2020 election.

    While the Constitution doesn’t require electors to follow their state's popular vote, many states' laws do. Though it's rare, electors have challenged those laws and voted for someone else. But in July 2020 the Supreme Court ruled (PDF, Download Adobe Reader) that those state laws are constitutional. Electors must follow their state's popular vote, if the state has passed such a law. 

  • Winning the Popular Vote but Losing the Election

    It is possible to win the Electoral College but lose the popular vote.  This happened in 2016, in 2000, and three times in the 1800s.

    What Happens if No Candidate Wins the Majority of Electoral Votes?

    If no candidate receives the majority of electoral votes, the vote goes to the House of Representatives. House members choose the new president from among the top three candidates. The Senate elects the vice president from the remaining top two candidates.

    This has only happened once. In 1824, the House of Representatives elected John Quincy Adams as president.

  • The Electoral College process is in the U.S. Constitution. It would take a constitutional amendment to change the process. For more information, contact your U.S. senator or your U.S. representative.

https://www.usa.gov/election