Electoral College: How It Works

Written By:

Laura Ruzicka

Publishing Date:

August 27, 2022

Currently The Electoral College has 538 Electors with 270 needed to win the presidency and vice presidency. A mere 270 votes are all it takes to determine who will lead the nation for the next four years, not the popular vote but a simple 270 Electoral votes. Our Founding Fathers established The Electoral College as a fundamental process in how the nation elects the President and Vice President. Yet, many are unaware of how the process works and how one becomes an Elector.

The rules governing the selection of Electors have changed over the years. Originally, selecting Electors was left up to the State Legislatures. Some would appoint Electors before the deadline, while others chose to let their citizens decide. The Founding Fathers stipulated within the Constitution that an Elector must not be a Senator, Representative, or Person holding an Office of Trust. In addition, state officials that have engaged in any kind of insurrection or rebellion against The United States are prohibited from being an Elector.

Nowadays, political parties play a huge role in picking Electors to serve in the Electoral process for the upcoming elections. Nowadays, the most common way to get Electors is through a State’s Convention, or through a State’s Party Central Committee. Depending on the state you reside in, each state organizes a statewide party convention where they nominate a slate of Electors and then vote at that event.

All the Electors in each state must be appointed by Election Day in November. Then after the General Election the Governor of each state prepares the Certificates of Ascertainment, that list the Electors that have been chosen from each state. After that, in December the Electors finally meet in their own States’ Capitol representing their state in a politically unbiased manner where they will cast their Electoral vote according to who wins the popular vote with the exception of Maine and Nebraska who decide to split their electoral votes amongst the two candidates. However, if any of the Electors are unable to perform these duties on the day of the meeting as a back up the state will pick an alternate Elector that will. During this meeting is where the Electors will prepare the Certificate of Vote to cast in for President and Vice President. When preparing the Certificates Federal Law requires that the Certificate of Vote and Certificate of Ascertainment meet a set of requirements in order to be fully processed. To see these requirements you can visit The National Archives.

Afterwards, states send one pair of the certificates to the president of the senate, two pairs to the archivist, two pairs to the secretary of the state you reside in, and one pair to the Chief Judge of the Federal District Courts in the state where your Electors met. When the certificates of vote and ascertainment have been properly delivered to these federal and state officials the state’s Electoral College duties are complete.


Pruitt, S. (2020, October 21). “How Are Electoral College Electors Chosen?” History.com. A&E Television Networks, LLC.https://www.history.com/news/electors-chosen-electoral-college

National Archives and Records Administration. (2019, December 23). “Roles and Responsibilities.” National Archives and Records Administration. https://www.archives.gov/electoral-college/roles

Funakoshi, M., Foo, W., Wolfe, J. (2020, October, 16).“How the Electoral College works” Reuters.com.https://graphics.reuters.com/USA-ELECTION/ELECTORAL-COLLEGE/qzjpqaeqapx/

Lau, T. (2021, February, 17). “The Electoral College, Explained” BrennanCenter.org. Brennan Center for Justice at NYU Law. https://www.brennancenter.org/our-work/research-reports/electoral-college-explained