United States Presidential Electors

United States Presidential Electors

The United States Electoral College is the institution that officially elects the President and Vice President of the United States every four years. The President and Vice President are not elected directly by the voters. Instead, they are elected indirectly by "electors" who are elected by popular vote on a state-by-state basis. Electors are apportioned to each state and the District of Columbia, but not to territorial possessions of the United States, such as Puerto Rico and Guam. The number of electors in each state is equal to the number of members of Congress to which the state is entitled. The Twenty-third Amendment has always resulted in the District of Columbia having three electors. There are 538 electors, based on there being 435 representatives and 100 senators, plus the three electors from the District of Columbia.

Electors are pledged to particular presidential and vice presidential candidates, though unpledged electors are possible. In all states, except Maine and Nebraska, electors are elected on a "winner-take-all" basis. That is, all electors pledged to the presidential candidate who wins the most votes in a state become electors for that state. Maine and Nebraska use the "congressional district method", selecting one elector within each congressional district by popular vote and selecting the remaining two electors by a statewide popular vote. Although no elector is required by federal law to honor a pledge, there have only been very few occasions when an elector voted contrary to a pledge. The Twelfth Amendment specifies how a President and Vice President are elected and requires each elector to cast one vote for President and another vote for Vice President.

Critics argue that the Electoral College is inherently undemocratic and gives swing states disproportionate influence in electing the President and Vice President. The Electoral College gives a numeric advantage in the election of the president to the smaller states, as the minimum number of electors for the small states is three compared to one for the election of representatives. On the other hand, the winner-take-all method of voting favors the larger states. A number of constitutional amendments have been proposed seeking to alter the Electoral College or replace it with a direct popular vote.

Read more about United States Presidential Electors:  Background, Modern Mechanics, Chronological Table, Alternative Methods of Choosing Electors, Contemporary Conflict, National Popular Vote Interstate Compact

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