Our nation's founders established the Electoral College as a compromise between the election of the president by Congress and election by a popular vote. Rather than vote directly for president, the voters of each state vote for those individuals who will represent their state in the Electoral College.
On the Monday after the second Wednesday in the December following each presidential election, the electors of each state meet in their respective state capitols to cast their electoral votes. These votes are then counted by a joint session of Congress to determine the President and Vice President of the United States.
Number of Electoral Votes
Each State is allocated a number of Electors equal to the number of its U.S. Senators (always 2) plus the number of its U.S. Representatives (which may change each decade according to the size of each State`s population as determined in the Census). Ohio currently has 20 electoral votes. Click here for the electoral count by state.
Choosing the Electors
The political parties (or independent candidates) in each state certify to the state`s chief election official a list of individuals pledged to their candidate for president and equal in number to the state`s electoral vote. Usually, the major political parties select these individuals either in their state party conventions or through appointment by their state party leaders while third parties and independent candidates merely designate theirs.
Members of Congress and employees of the federal government are prohibited from serving as an Elector in order to maintain the balance between the legislative and executive branches of the federal government.
Whichever presidential ticket gets the most popular votes in a State wins all the electoral votes of that state. [The two exceptions to this are Maine and Nebraska where two electors are chosen by statewide popular vote and the remainder by the popular vote within each Congressional district]. Ohio law (R.C. 3505.40) requires presidential electors to vote for the candidates of the political party that certified them to the Secretary of State.
The Electoral Vote
On the Monday following the second Wednesday of December (as established in federal law) each State`s Electors meet in their respective state capitals and cast their electoral votes-one for president and one for vice president.
In order to prevent Electors from voting only for "favorite sons" of their home state, at least one of their votes must be for a person from outside their state (though this is seldom a problem since the parties have consistently nominated presidential and vice presidential candidates from different states).
The electoral votes are then sealed and transmitted from each state to the President of the Senate who, on the following January 6, opens and reads them before both houses of the Congress.
The candidate for president with the most electoral votes, provided that it is an absolute majority (one more than half of the total), is declared president. Similarly, the vice presidential candidate with the absolute majority of electoral votes is declared vice president.
In the event no one obtains an absolute majority of electoral votes for president, the U.S. House of Representatives (as the chamber closest to the people) selects the president from among the top three contenders with each state casting only one vote and an absolute majority of the states being required to elect. Similarly, if no one obtains an absolute majority for vice president, then the U.S. Senate makes the selection from among the top two contenders for that office.
At noon on January 20, the duly elected president and vice president are sworn into office.
For more information on the Electoral College, visit the U.S. Electoral College page provided by the National Archive and Records Administration.