Polly Ticks, the Mini Page’s political reporter, helps us understand the Electoral College. It’s kind of complicated, so you may want to read this along with your parents or teachers.

The Electoral College

Voting is the most important duty a citizen performs to help elect our president. But there is another step after individuals vote. It is called the Electoral College.

This is not a college with a campus and students. Another meaning for “college” is a group that meets and has special duties.

The Electoral College has the duty to elect the president of the United States. The vote is based on how the people in each state voted.

Our founding fathers decided on the Electoral College as a compromise between having the president elected by members of Congress or by individual citizens. Because the process is part of our Constitution, changing it would require an amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

How shall we elect the president?

Electoral votes

Each state is allotted a number of electoral votes equal to the number of members it has in the U.S. Congress. For example: Montana has one representative and two senators, so it gets three electoral votes.

The political parties in each state nominate a set of electors equal to the state’s number of members of Congress. So Montana would have three Republican electors, who would be expected to vote for the Republican ticket, and three Democratic electors, who would be expected to vote for the Democratic ticket.

The electoral votes total 538. This number is based on the total number of members of Congress.

Senators 100

Representatives 435

From the

District of Columbia + 3


On the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November, citizens 18 years old and older vote. The winning ticket in each state gets all of that state’s electoral votes (except for in Maine and Nebraska, where the electoral vote may be split between the candidates).

Counting the votes

We usually know who the winner is on election night by counting the electoral votes. However, there are other steps to make it official.

In December, the winning electors, or special voters from each state, meet in their state capitals and cast their votes.

These electoral votes are put into sealed envelopes and sent to the president of the U.S. Senate. On Jan. 6, he or she opens the envelopes. The results are read before a meeting of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives.

If there is a tie, or if no one gets as many as 270 electoral votes, the House of Representatives must decide who will be president. Each state has only one vote in this situation. This has happened only twice in our country’s history, in 1800 and 1824.