How Does the Electoral College Work? Which States Have the Most Electoral Votes? How Electors Are Chosen
It takes 270 Electoral College votes to win the presidency.
The 12 Largest states in the order of their populations and the number of electoral votes each state has:
1. California is the largest state population-wise and has 55 electoral votes.
2. Texas has 38 electoral votes.
3. New York – 29
4. Florida – 29
5. Illinois – 20
6. Pennsylvania – 20
7. Ohio -- 18
8. Michigan -- 16
9. Georgia -- 16
10. North Carolina – 15
11. New Jersey – 14
12: Virginia -- 13
Current Electoral Map
Only 2 states split their electoral votes between the 2 presidential candidates according to their state’s popular vote
Maine and Nebraska both divide their allocated electoral votes between the two presidential candidates based on their respective state’s popular vote results.
In all other states, the popular vote of each state usually determines which candidate gets all of that state’s electoral votes -- but not necessarily. If a state’s popular vote goes 51% for Romney and 49% for Obama, Romney would be expected to get all of that state’s electoral votes.
Why did I say that the popular vote usually determines which candidate will receive all of the electoral votes from a particular state if they have won the popular vote in that state? Why did I not say they always do? Because most of the time members of the Electoral College vote according to their state’s popular vote, but not always. They are not bound by any state's laws to do so.
For example, in 2000 elector Barbara Lett-Simmons of Washington D.C. refused to cast a vote at all despite having promised to vote according to the popular vote in her district.
According to presidentelect.org, there have been 3 times in U.S. history when presidential candidates have not received electoral votes from states where they did actually receive the majority of popular votes. Those 3 times were as follows:
1824 Adams vs. Jackson
1876 Hayes vs. Tilden
1888 Harrison vs. Cleveland
More from Au Fait About How Our Government Works
- What Is a Swing State? Which States Are Swing States In 2012? Why Independent Voters Rule
Learn what makes a state a swing state, why Independent voters in swing states make all the difference in a presidential election, and which states are considered swing states in 2012. Includes a map of the current political situation as to which sta
- Gerrymandering and Reapportionment: An Explanation of Both and How They Work
An explanation of gerrymandering and why it always favors the political party in control, and never favors the voters. How political districts are drawn and who draws them.
- Census -- Why It Matters: Why Do Census Takers Ask Those Nosy Questions?
Why we have a census. Why the census is important. What is done with all that information that is collected by census takers? Why do census takers ask all those nosy questions?
How Are Electors to the Electoral College Appointed?
Each state is allocated as many electors to the Electoral College as it has Senators and Representatives in the House of the United States Congress.
Currently the Electoral College is made up of 538 electors. There are 100 electors equal to the number of senators, and 435 electors equal to the number of members of the House of Representatives, making 535 electors. In addition, Washing D.C. has been allocated 3 electors, making the grand total of electors to the Electoral College 538.
To even things out, every state is allocated at least 3 electors so that small states have a better balance against big states.
A state’s population according to the most recent census determines the number of representatives a state has. That in turn will determine the number of electors to the Electoral College that state will have also.
The major political parties in each state nominate the electors for that state in the months leading up to the presidential election. Some states hold primaries to select electors while other states hold party conventions for that purpose. No person holding a federal office whether elected or appointed is eligible to be an elector.
Every effort is made to assure that electors will be “faithful” in casting their votes as promised, and so far it seems to have worked reasonably well. Some states have punishments for electors who fail to vote as promised, or who fail to vote at all.
One state, Michigan, has taken steps to void any elector’s vote that is not faithful to the promise the elector has made, to vote according to the popular vote in the district they represent. Most electors face their party’s wrath more than any criminal charges if they do not vote the way their party expects them to do.
This short video explains how the Electoral College works.
This short video explains why your vote is not counted the same as other people’s votes and why the Electoral College is unfair.
© 2012 C E Clark