The Electoral College consists of the electors appointed by each state who formally elect the President and Vice President of the United States. Since 1964, there have been 538 electors in each presidential election. Article II, Section 1, Clause 2 of the Constitution specifies how many electors each state is entitled to have and that each state's legislature decides how its electors are to be chosen. U.S. territories are not represented in the Electoral College. The Electoral College is an example of an indirect election, as opposed to a direct election by United States citizens (such as for members of the United States House of Representatives).
The voters of each state, and the District of Columbia, vote for electors to be the authorized constitutional participants in a presidential election. In early U.S. history, some state laws delegated the choice of electors to the state legislature. Electors are free to vote for anyone eligible to be President, but in practice pledge to vote for specific candidates and voters cast ballots for favored presidential and vice presidential candidates by voting for correspondingly pledged electors.
The Twelfth Amendment provides for each elector to cast one vote for President and one vote for Vice President. It also specifies how a President and Vice President are elected. The Twenty-third Amendment specifies how many electors the District of Columbia is entitled to have.
The Electoral College's existence is controversial. A 2001 Gallup article noted that "a majority of Americans have continually expressed support for the notion of an official amendment of the U.S. Constitution that would allow for direct election of the president" since one of the first-ever public polls on the matter in 1944, and Gallup found no significant change in 2004. Critics argue that the Electoral College is archaic, inherently undemocratic and gives certain swing states disproportionate influence in selecting the President and Vice President. Proponents argue that the Electoral College is an important, distinguishing feature of federalism in the United States and that it protects the rights of smaller states. Numerous constitutional amendments have been introduced in the Congress seeking to alter the Electoral College or replace it with a direct popular vote; however, no proposal has ever passed the Congress.
See Votes by State
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