Presidential Election Information
Electoral CollegeThe term “Electoral College” is generally used to describe a group of citizens called “electors” selected by the voters to cast votes for president and vice president. College refers to a body of persons that act as a unit. Article II, Section 1 of the U.S. Constitution states that “each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors, equal to the whole Number of Senators and Representatives to which the State may be entitled in the Congress.”
Choosing a candidate
Delegates to the national party conventions are selected at the state level according to rules and formulas determined by each political party's state committee. While these rules and formulas can change from state to state and from year to year, there remain the two methods by which the states choose their delegates to the national conventions: the primary and the caucus.
Most states use a presidential primary to select delegates.
To select delegates, most states hold closed primaries. In a closed primary, voters may vote only in the primary of the political party in which they registered. Florida is a closed primary state. Instead of primaries, some states use a series of caucuses and conventions. In such states, candidates are chosen at local caucuses narrowed at district conventions and finalized at state conventions.
In November, voters go to the polls to select “electors” pledged to vote for a certain candidate. The candidate receiving the majority of votes receives all of the state’s electoral votes. Maine and Nebraska are the exceptions to the winner-take-all method. In these states, only two of the electors are chosen in a winner-take-all fashion from the entire state. The remaining electors are determined by the winner in each congressional district, with each district voting for one elector. Two hundred seventy electors are needed to win the presidency.
Electing a President
The chosen electors from each state meet on the first Monday after the second Wednesday in December to cast their votes for president and vice-president. The person receiving the majority of the votes of electors is elected. If no presidential candidate wins a majority of electoral votes, the 12th Amendment to the Constitution provides for the presidential election to be decided by the House of Representatives.
For more information, go to the National Archives website.