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What is the Electoral College?

It’s possible to win the popular vote, but not the election. Donald Trump was elected by losing the popular vote in 2016, however, he won the most Electoral College votes, thus becoming President. In addition to 2016, this situation has occurred four other times in history: 1824, 1876, 1888, and 2000.

The Electoral College is a body of people, known as electors, that determine who will win the role of president and live in the White House. The Electoral College is — and was formed because of — a compromise, just like many parts of the creation of the country we know today.

The concept of the Electoral College dates back to 1787, when leaders were torn between who should elect President, Congress, or the public. The Electoral College was, to them, the best of both. It would use electors to represent the Congressional element and would allow ‘the people’s’ vote to determine if a candidate wins the states.

There are 538 electors in the Electoral College. It’s set up on representation from the amount of Congress members, Senators, and Representatives. Because every state is a different size, each state has a different number of electors in the Electoral College. California has the most electoral votes with 55, followed by Texas with 38, and Florida with 29.

Each state has its own rules on how electors are chosen. Usually, the political party of the presidential candidate who won the state chooses the electors. Most electors are people who have been loyal and dedicated members of their political party for a long time. 

This depends on the state. In some states, there are laws requiring that electors vote the same as the people who voted for them. Most of the time electors vote as expected, but in rare cases, they have changed their vote and voted for a different candidate than the people who voted for them. 

In most states, if you win the popular vote in that state, you win all the Electoral College votes (or “points”) from that state.

Biden has more paths to victory than Trump does. Even if he loses Florida, he could pick up three or more of these states to help close the deal: North Carolina (15 votes), Pennsylvania (20 votes), Ohio (18 votes), Michigan (16 votes), and Wisconsin (10 votes).

As of noon on Wednesday, Biden had 238 votes to Trump’s 213 votes with seven states yet to announce a winner. North Carolina and Pennsylvania, both of which have not announced a winner, but are currently leaning toward Trump, are pivotal battleground states. Biden also has about 2 million more popular votes than Trump, however, if Trump receives more Electoral Votes, he will win re-election. 

*Editor’s Note: This is part of our ongoing Election 2020 result series covering everything from winners of races to the role and functions of the Electoral College.  

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