ELECTION PROCESS

Explainer: What’s In Store When The Electoral College Meets

Dec 13, 2020, 11:54 AM | Updated: 12:01 pm
FILE: United States Capitol building (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)...
FILE: United States Capitol building (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
(Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Voters cast their ballots for president more than a month ago, but the votes that officially matter will be cast Monday. That’s when the Electoral College meets.

The Constitution gives the electors the power to choose the president, and when all the votes are counted Monday, President-elect Joe Biden is expected to have 306 electoral votes, more than the 270 needed to elect a president, to 232 votes for President Donald Trump.

Some questions and answers about the Electoral College:

What Exactly Is The Electoral College?

In drafting the Constitution, America’s founders struggled with how the new nation should choose its leader and ultimately created the Electoral College system. It was a compromise between electing the president by popular vote and having Congress choose the president.

Under the Constitution, states get a number of electors equal to their total number of seats in Congress: two senators plus however many members the state has in the House of Representatives. With the exception of Maine and Nebraska, states award all of their electoral college votes to the winner of the popular vote in their state.

What’s The Beef With The Electoral College?

The Electoral College has been the subject of criticism for more than two centuries. One often-repeated gripe: the person who wins the popular vote can nonetheless lose the presidential election. That happened twice in the last two decades — in 2000 with the election of George W. Bush and in 2016 when President Donald Trump lost the popular vote to Hillary Clinton by nearly 3 million votes.

Biden, for his part, won the popular vote and will end up with 306 electoral votes to Trump’s 232. Trump was the fifth presidential candidate in American history to have lost the popular vote but won in the Electoral College.

Who Are The Electors?

Presidential electors typically are elected officials, political hopefuls or longtime party loyalists.

This year, they include South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, a Trump elector who could be a 2024 Republican presidential candidate, and Georgia Democrat Stacey Abrams, her party’s 2018 nominee for governor and a key player in Biden’s win in the state.

Among others are 93-year-old Paul “Pete” McCloskey, a Biden elector who is a former Republican congressman who challenged Richard Nixon for the 1972 GOP presidential nomination on a platform opposing the Vietnam War; Floridian Maximo Alvarez, an immigrant from Cuba who worried in his Republican convention speech that anarchy and communism would overrun Biden’s America, and Muhammad Abdurrahman, a Minnesotan who tried to cast his electoral vote for Sen. Bernie Sanders instead of Hillary Clinton in 2016.

Where Do They Meet And What Do They Do?

The Electoral College doesn’t meet in one place. Instead, each state’s electors and the electors for the District of Columbia meet in a place chosen by their legislature, usually the state capitol.

The election is low tech. Electors cast their votes by paper ballot: one ballot for president and one for vice president. The votes get counted and the electors sign six certificates with the results. Each certificate gets paired with a certificate from the governor detailing the state’s vote totals.

Those six packets then get mailed to various people specified by law. The most important copy, though, gets sent to the president of the Senate, the current vice president. This is the copy that will be officially counted later.

Do Electors Have To Vote For The Candidate Who Won Their State?

In 32 states and the District of Columbia, laws require electors to vote for the popular-vote winner. The Supreme Court unanimously upheld this arrangement in July. Electors almost always vote for the state winner anyway, because they generally are devoted to their political party.

A bit of an exception happened in 2016 when 10 electors tried to vote for other candidates. Those included people pledged to support Clinton who decided not to back her in a futile bid to get Republican electors to abandon Trump and choose someone else as president.

Abdurrahman, the Minnesotan who wanted to vote for Sanders, was replaced as an elector. This year, he has said he will cast his vote for Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, according to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.

What Happens Next?

Once the electoral votes are cast, they are sent to Congress, where both houses will convene on Jan. 6 for a session presided over by Vice President Mike Pence. The envelopes from each state and the District of Columbia will be opened and the votes tallied.

If at least one member of each house objects in writing to some electoral votes, the House and Senate meet separately to debate the issue. Both houses must vote to sustain the objection for it to matter, and the Democratic-led House is unlikely to go along with any objections to votes for Biden. Otherwise, the votes get counted as intended by the states.

And then there’s one more step: inauguration.

KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories

Election Process

Voters cast ballots at an early voting polling location for the 2020 Presidential election at Madis...
SUSAN MONTOYA BRYAN and MORGAN LEE Associated Press

Screams, threats as New Mexico counties try to certify vote

Deep-seated conspiracy theories about the security of voting machines erupted into heated, angry and at times threatening outbursts as New Mexico counties were deciding whether to certify results from their recent primary.
14 days ago
Richard Nixon (1913 - 1994) gives the thumbs up as he addresses the White House staff upon his resi...
CALVIN WOODWARD Associated Press

Watergate 50th intersects Jan. 6 hearings

Watergate and Jan. 6 are a half-century apart but in both episodes, a president tried to do an end run around democracy.
14 days ago
Couy Griffin New Mexico elections...
MORGAN LEE Associated Press

New Mexico prosecutor says GOP county must certify vote or legal action will follow

New Mexico's top prosecutor on Thursday told a Republican-led county commission to comply with an order to certify results from its primary election, the latest development in a case arising from far-right conspiracy theories over voting machines that have spread across the country.
15 days ago
FILE PHOTO: Otero County Commission Chairman and Cowboys for Trump co-founder Couy Griffin. Griffin...
MORGAN LEE Associated Press

Republican-led commission refuses to certify New Mexico primary vote

Votes in a New Mexico community are at risk of not counting after a Republican-led commission refused to approve primary election results over distrust of Dominion vote-tallying machines.
16 days ago
Protesters gather on the U.S. Capitol Building on Jan. 6, 2021, in Washington, DC. Pro-Trump protes...
MICHAEL KUNZELMAN Associated Press

Man blaming Trump’s ‘presidential orders’ for Jan. 6 riot actions found guilty

An Ohio man who testified that he was "following presidential orders" from Donald Trump when he stormed the U.S. Capitol has been convicted of obstructing Congress from certifying President Joe Biden's 2020 electoral victory. A federal jury on Thursday also found Dustin Byron Thompson, 38, guilty of stealing a coat rack from an office inside the Capitol during the riot on Jan. 6, 2021.
3 months ago
FILE: White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows walks along the South Lawn before President Donald Tr...
Associated Press

Former chief of staff Mark Meadows removed as North Carolina registered voter

An elections board in a North Carolina county has removed Mark Meadows, a former chief of staff to President Donald Trump, from its list of registered voters after documents showed he lived in Virginia and voted in the 2021 election there. Questions had already arisen last month about Meadows when North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein's office asked the State Bureau of Investigation to look into his voter registration, which listed a home he never owned as his legal residence.
3 months ago

Sponsored Articles

hand holding 3d rendering mobile connect with security camera for security solutions...
Les Olson

Wondering what security solutions are right for you? Find out more about how to protect your surroundings

Physical security helps everyone. Keep your employees, clients, and customers safe with security solutions that protect your workplace.
Many rattan pendant lights, hay hang from the ceiling.Traditional and simple lighting....
Lighting Design

The Best Ways to Style Rattan Pendant Lighting in Your Home

Rattan pendant lights create a rustic and breezy feel, and are an easy way to incorporate this hot trend into your home decor.
Earth day 2022...
1-800-GOT-JUNK?

How Are You Celebrating Earth Day 2022? | 4 Simple Ways to Celebrate Earth Day and Protect the Environment

Earth Day is a great time to reflect on how we can be more environmentally conscious. Here are some tips for celebrating Earth Day.
Get Money Online...

More Ways to Get Money Online Right Now in Your Spare Time

Here are 4 easy ways that you can get more money online if you have some free time and want to make a little extra on the side.
Lighting trends 2022...

Lighting Trends 2022 | 5 Beautiful Home Lighting Trends You Can Expect to See this Year and Beyond

This is where you can see the latest lighting trends for 2022 straight from the Lightovation Show at the Dallas World Trade Center.
What Can't You Throw Away in the Trash...

What Can’t You Throw Away in the Trash? | 5 Things You Shouldn’t Throw in to Your Trash Can

What can't you throw away in the trash? Believe it or not, there are actually many items that shouldn't be thrown straight into the trash.
Explainer: What’s In Store When The Electoral College Meets