The Electoral College decides who will be elected president and vice president of the U.S. Learn who is involved and how the process works.
In other U.S. elections, candidates are elected directly by popular vote. But the president and vice president are not elected directly by citizens. Instead, they are chosen by "electors" through a process called the Electoral College.
Who is in the Electoral College?
Each state gets as many electors as it has members of Congress (House and Senate). Including Washington, D.C.’s three electors, there are currently 538 electors in all.
Each state’s political parties choose their own slate of potential electors. Who is chosen to be an elector, how, and when varies by state. Learn more about how electors are chosen.
How does the Electoral College process work?
While the Constitution does not require electors to vote for the candidate chosen by their state's popular vote, some states do. The rare elector who votes for someone else may be fined, disqualified and replaced by a substitute elector, or potentially even prosecuted by their state.
Unusual Electoral College scenarios
Winning the popular vote but losing the election
It is possible to win the Electoral College but lose the popular vote. This happened in 2016, 2000, and three times in the 1800s.
What happens if no candidate wins the majority of electoral votes?
If no candidate receives the majority of electoral votes, the vote goes to the House of Representatives.
This has happened twice. The first time was following the 1800 presidential election, when the House chose Thomas Jefferson. And following the 1824 presidential election, the House selected John Quincy Adams as president.
How to change the Electoral College
The Electoral College process is in the U.S. Constitution. It would take a constitutional amendment to change the process. For more information, contact your U.S. senator or your U.S. representative.
LAST UPDATED: February 8, 2024