The state of play: Electoral college explained
MILLIONS OF Americans will vote on Tuesday, but the US president will actually be elected by the members of an electoral college.
The college is a process, not a place; it’s a compromise between election of the president by a vote in congress and election of the president by a popular vote of citizens.
The electoral college process consists of the selection of the electors, which is what really happens on Tuesday; the meeting of the electors where they vote for president and vice-president, and the counting of the electoral votes by congress. Of course, if the result is clear after Tuesday, everyone knows the outcome and the electoral college process is merely a formality.
The college consists of 538 electors. A majority of 270 electoral votes is required to elect the president. Each state’s allotment of electors equals the number of members in its congressional delegation: one for each member in the house of representatives plus two for each of its senators.
The meeting of the electors takes place on the first Monday after the second Wednesday in December after the presidential election – ie Monday, December 17th. The electors meet in their respective states, where they cast their votes for president and vice-president on separate ballots.
Each state’s electoral votes will be counted in a joint session of Congress on January 6th, 2013.
The vice-president, as president of the senate, presides over the count and announces the results. The president of the senate then declares which persons, if any, have been elected president and vice-president of the United States. The president-elect takes the oath of office and is sworn in as president on January 20th.