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Electoral College

Electoral College Information

How do we elect the President?
How does California selects its electors?
What happens if the electoral vote is a tie?
Where can I find more information on the electoral college?

How do we elect the President?

Unlike in most elections, the person who becomes president is not necessarily the candidate who wins the most votes on Election Day. Instead, the election of the president of the United States it is a two-step process.

First, voters cast ballots on Election Day in each state. In nearly every state, the candidate who gets the most votes wins the "electoral votes" for that state, and gets that number of voters (or "electors") in the "Electoral College."

Second, the "electors" from each of the 50 states gather in December and they vote for president. The person who receives a majority of votes from the "Electoral College" becomes President.

How exactly does this work? Under the "Electoral College" system, each state is assigned a certain number of "votes". There are a total of 538 electoral votes, and the number of votes each state receives is proportional to its size --- the bigger the state's population the more "votes" it gets. The formula for determining the number of votes for each state is simple: each state gets two votes for its two US Senators, and then one more additional vote for each member it has in the House of Representatives. For California, this means we get 55 votes (2 senators and 53 members of the House of Representatives) --- the most of any state.

How does California selects its electors?

On or before October 1 of the presidential election year, each party's nominee must file a list containing the names, addresses, and telephone numbers of the 55 electors pledges to him/her. Each party determines its own method for selecting electors.

In the Democratic Party, each congressional nominee and each US Senate nominee (determined by the last two elections) designates one elector.

In the Republican Party, the nominees for governor, lieutenant governor, treasurer, controller, attorney general, secretary of state, United States Senators (again, going back two elections) the Senate and Assembly GOP leaders, all elected officers of the GOP state central committee, the national committeeman and committeewoman, the president of the GOP county central committee chairmen's organization and the chair or president of each GOP volunteer organization officially recognized by the state central committee act as electors.

No incumbent Senators, congressional representatives or persons holding an office of trust or profit of the United States can serve as electors.

American Independent electors are selected at the party's nominating convention, as are those of the Green, Libertarian, Natural Law, and Peace & Freedom parties, who further specify a 50/50 ratio of men and women.

What happens if the electoral vote is a tie?

The House of Representatives makes the decision with each state having one vote. Representatives of at least two-thirds of the states must be present for the vote. If they cannot decide by March 4, then the Vice President become President and the person receiving the largest number of Vice President votes becomes Vice President.

Where can I find more information on the electoral college?

This information and more is available at the National Archives and Record Administration, website:

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