The voter system, loosely based on the Roman Catholic College of Cardinals to select a pope, was chosen with the theory that the most knowledgeable and informed individuals from each state would select a president on the basis of merit, ignoring the state’s loyalties.
So when Americans vote on November 3, they are technically voting for “the voters”, not the candidates themselves. Voters are state officials or prominent party figures, but their names are not usually mentioned on the ballot.
Each voter casts one vote after the general election for a candidate. The newly elected President and Vice President will then be inaugurated on January 20, 2021.
Read more: Who won the first presidential debate?
How does the electoral college work?
All 50 US states and Washington, DC have a set number of “electors” in the electoral college – roughly proportional to the size of each state.
Each state gets at least three electoral votes because the sum equals the total number of senators and representatives in the U.S. Congress. Washington, DC also received three Electoral College votes, which means that a total of 538 electors make up the Electoral College.
California, the largest state, has 55 electoral votes, while Texas, the second largest, has 38. New York and Florida each have 29 votes.
All but two states – Maine and Nebraska – use a winner-takes-all system, so if you win the most votes in a state, you get the total Electoral College vote.
To become president, any of the candidates would need to win a majority of the 538 voters – 270 voters.
While the Constitution does not require voters to follow the popular vote, many US states have laws that oblige them to do so. These laws were challenged by voters who voted for someone else at times, but in July, the US Supreme Court ruled that voters must follow the popular vote in states that have passed such a law.
The electoral college system usually reflects the popular vote – presidents have won the electoral vote while losing the popular vote only five times in US history. The last example was in 2016, when Donald Trump won the Electoral College but his Democratic challenger Hillary Clinton won the popular vote.
What are swing states?
The key to either party winning the presidential election is targeting specific battle states. There are several swing states that went both ways during the last election. They hold the key to winning the election.