Factcheck: Electoral College

The Electoral College consists of 538 popularly elected representatives who formally select the President and Vice President of the United States.[1]

In 2008, it will make this selection on December 15.

The Electoral College is an example of an indirect election. Rather than directly voting for the President and Vice President, United States citizens cast votes for electors.

Electors are technically free to vote for anyone eligible to be President, but in practice pledge to vote for specific candidates[2] and voters cast ballots for favored presidential and vice presidential candidates by voting for correspondingly pledged electors.[3] Most states allow voters to choose between statewide slates of electors pledged to vote for the presidential and vice presidential tickets of various parties; the ticket that receives the most votes statewide ‘wins’ all of the votes cast by electors from that state. U.S. presidential campaigns concentrate on winning the popular vote in a combination of states that choose a majority of the electors, rather than campaigning to win the most votes nationally.

Each state has a number of electors equal to the number of its Senators and Representatives in the United States Congress. Additionally, Washington, D.C. is given a number of electors equal to the number held by the “least populous” state.[4] U.S. territories are not represented in the Electoral College.

Each elector casts one vote for President and one vote for Vice President. In order to be elected, a candidate must have a majority (at least 270) of the electoral votes cast for that office. Should no candidate for President win a majority of the electoral votes, the choice is referred to the House of Representatives.[5] Should no candidate for Vice President possess a majority of the electoral votes, the choice is given to the Senate.[6]

The following table shows the number of electoral votes to which each state and the District of Columbia is entitled during the 2004 and 2008 presidential elections:[74][75]

State Electoral Votes State Electoral Votes
Alabama 9 Montana 3
Alaska 3 Nebraska 5**
Arizona 10 Nevada 5
Arkansas 6 New Hampshire 4
California 55 New Jersey 15
Colorado 9 New Mexico 5
Connecticut 7 New York 31
Delaware 3 North Carolina 15
Washington, D.C.* 3 North Dakota 3
Florida 27 Ohio 20
Georgia 15 Oklahoma 7
Hawaii 4 Oregon 7
Idaho 4 Pennsylvania 21
Illinois 21 Rhode Island 4
Indiana 11 South Carolina 8
Iowa 7 South Dakota 3
Kansas 6 Tennessee 11
Kentucky 8 Texas 34
Louisiana 9 Utah 5
Maine 4** Vermont 3
Maryland 10 Virginia 13
Massachusetts 12 Washington 11
Michigan 17 West Virginia 5
Minnesota 10 Wisconsin 10
Mississippi 6 Wyoming 3
Missouri 11 Total electors 538
* Washington, D.C., although not a state, is granted three electoral votes by the Twenty-third Amendment to the United States Constitution.
** Maine and Nebraska electors distributed by way of the Congressional District Method.
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