Editorial: Explaining the Electoral College

Following the confusion of the recent U.S. presidential election, it is important to understand how exactly the Electoral College works, as well as its origin.

The electoral college is currently made up of 538 presidential electors, who vote on the president and vice president in December. The number of electors each state receives is the same as the number of the state’s congressmen, which is based upon population. All states elect their electors based on the popular vote in the state. If the popular vote is in favor of a candidate, the state will select an elector that has pledged to vote for that presidential candidate and vice-presidential candidate. The only abnormalities are Maine and Nebraska, which splits their electoral votes between congressional districts within the state, with each district getting one vote.

On semi-rare occasions, this has lead to faithless electors who vote for someone who did not win the popular vote in that state or district. For example, in the 2016 presidential election, Donald Trump lost two electoral votes and Hillary Clinton lost five electoral votes to third-party candidates due to faithless electors. However, faithless electors have not significantly swayed the election since 1836 when a vice-presidential candidate died after Election Day but before the electoral college convened. 32 states have fines and penalties against faithless electors.