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How Does the Electoral College Work? Which States Have the Most Electoral Votes? How Electors Are Chosen

C. E. Clark has been a student of how U.S. government works since she was just 13 years old,, and a political junkie for more than 35 years.

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

This map shows how many electoral votes each state has based on the most recent Census (2010)

This map shows how many electoral votes each state has based on the most recent Census (2010)

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.

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According to, 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

This Is a Map of the Expected Swing States for the 2020 Presidential Election

More from C. E. Clark About How Our Government Works

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


C E Clark (author) from North Texas on June 22, 2018:

Liz Elias, thank you for stopping by. I'll have a look at the URL you included soon. One way or another, we need to get rid of the Electoral College. It's outlasted it's usefulness and miserably failed it's purpose (to prevent idiots from becoming president) in this last election.

Liz Elias from Oakley, CA on June 16, 2018:

I have recently learned of a way that we, as a nation, (with the help of a few more states joining the initiative), can effectively render the electoral college obsolete and powerless to override the popular vote:

C E Clark (author) from North Texas on June 16, 2018:

Peggy Woods, thank you for commenting on this article and encouraging people to learn more about how our government works!

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on June 12, 2018:

The mid-term elections are fast approaching later this year and then another two years and we will once again have the Electoral College helping to determine who will win the presidency. I would think that the way politics seems to be ever present in the news these days...sometimes hour to hour...that more people might be interested in learning just how our system of electing Presidents truly works. Pinning this once again.

C E Clark (author) from North Texas on December 31, 2016:

DzyMsLizzy, thank you for sharing your thoughts on this important issue. I agree that the Electoral College needs to be put in mothballs and we need to have a one person one vote system with everyone's vote counting equally regardless of what state they reside in. That is the only fair way.

I recommend you read my article on redistricting or gerrymandering and then you will have a better understanding of how incumbents and political parties stay in control.

Happy New Year!

Liz Elias from Oakley, CA on December 29, 2016:

You've done a great job of explaining all this. I am vindicated in thinking this is an unfair system. It has just been proven once again. You'll need to update your "3 times in history..." where the winner of the popular vote lost the election, thanks to this lousy system. It's actually 5: 2000; Bush vs. Gore, and it has just happened again: 2016; Clinton vs. Trump.

I do think they need to rework the entire system, starting with eliminating the electoral college, then the primaries, then the party system itself. Just have the candidates run for office, let everyone vote, and the winner is the winner! One person, one vote, and done. No more wasting money on multiple elections and an us vs. them campaign strategy. Just state your own platform, and may the best candidate win.

C E Clark (author) from North Texas on December 10, 2016:

Shyron, thank you for stopping by. I do hope this article was helpful. I've noticed I need to update it with info regarding why the Electoral College came to be in the first place because a lot of people seem to be confused about that, especially some of them who think they know why.

I'm hoping the Electoral College will do what it was created to do, but I'm afraid even the electors probably don't know what that was. Hope you are staying warm. It's better than yesterday/las' night, but could still warm up a little more. Blessings to you both. Take care . . .

Shyron E Shenko from Texas on November 15, 2016:

Au fait, I needed to re-read this thoroughly so I can understand it.

I hope all is well with you and your cold is better.

Blessings and hugs dear friend.

C E Clark (author) from North Texas on March 18, 2016:

Paul Kuehn, thank you for reading and commenting on this article and for the shares with followers and on FB. I have never looked into why U.S. territories have no voting power in this country. I consider it for a future project. Thank you for your great comment!

Paul Richard Kuehn from Udorn City, Thailand on March 13, 2016:

Au Fait, This is a very educational hub and it certainly is good to know about the electoral college in this Presidential election year. Why aren't U.S. territories like Puerto Rico given electoral votes? I am sharing this with HP followers and on Facebook.

C E Clark (author) from North Texas on September 19, 2015:

Peggy W., thank you for shining a light on this article and sharing it/pinning it! I have been enjoying the debates too. They are really getting peoples attention early in this election. I hope people will take the time to understand the Electoral College better.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on September 18, 2015:

Now that the Republicans have already had a couple of debates between the huge field of potential Presidential candidates and the first Democratic debate is scheduled for October 13th, it is time for people to once again bone up on facts of just how we elect a President of the United States if they are not already familiar. For that reason, will share this once again and pin to Awesome HubPages. We really enjoy watching the political debates and learning more about the candidates prior to elections.

C E Clark (author) from North Texas on November 10, 2014:

Thank you Peggy W for tweeting and sharing this article!

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on November 07, 2014:

We just had the mid-term elections a few days ago with the next Presidential election just 2 years ahead. Going to tweet this and once again share.

C E Clark (author) from North Texas on February 09, 2014:

Thank you for commenting Shyron. We have to get rid of the Electoral College. Put it in mothballs or better yet, in a museum of history. As things stand, there's no point in bothering to vote if you are in such a small minority that your vote will be tossed in the trash anyway and the majority votes will be passed on to your state's electors. This affects people who voted either party.

C E Clark (author) from North Texas on February 07, 2014:

Thank you for commenting Aunt Jimi, and for the votes and share. Agree that it's time for everyone's vote to count. The Electoral College served it's purpose, but now it actually prevents many votes from having any effect and that's wrong.

Shyron E Shenko from Texas on February 02, 2014:

Au fait, how can we change this? It is not right for a few to vote in some that really did not win.

This is very informative and need to be read by everyone.

Voted up, UAI and shared again.

Aunt Jimi from The reddest of the Red states! on February 02, 2014:

I really like this hub. You explain so well how the Electoral College works and why independent voters in swing states determine the presidency in your other hub on swing states. I would myself like to see the Electoral College retired and let the popular vote rule.

Voted up and useful, interesting, awesome. Will share.

C E Clark (author) from North Texas on September 25, 2013:

Thank you Moonlake for discovering this article, leaving a comment, and for voting it up, etc.!

moonlake from America on September 21, 2013:

Here's one of your hubs I have never been on and I thought I had seen them all. Great hub full of good information. Voted up and awesome.

C E Clark (author) from North Texas on August 05, 2013:

Thank you for voicing your opinion Shyron. Agree that the Electoral College has served its purpose well, but it's time for it to go. With current technology there is no reason we couldn't just go with the popular vote and that way everyone's vote would count no matter where they live, what district, or what state.

Thanks for the votes, the share and the pin too! Where would I be without you?

Shyron E Shenko from Texas on August 03, 2013:

We defiantely need to change the way people are elected by the Electoral College, it does not seem fair at all.

Voted up, useful and interesting. Pinned and shared. If everyone would read this maybe we could get something done.

C E Clark (author) from North Texas on August 03, 2013:

You are welcome Sir. Best wishes to you also!

jonnycomelately on August 01, 2013:

Thank you... very informative.... and best wishes from a-far.

C E Clark (author) from North Texas on July 31, 2013:

Thank you jonnycomelately for reading and commenting on this hub and for sharing your thoughts.

We are sometimes informed through our news outlets regarding the opinions of people around the world about our presidential candidates and it does influence some voters.

I think like some people here you in the states, may be of the impression that our president is all powerful. In fact he is not. He is not a dictator. There are some things he can do with the stroke of a pen, but most things must pass our Congress.

In order to have a real and true say in U.S. politics you would have to vote in all of the individual state elections because that is where our Congress comes from. Even I, a natural born citizen of this country, cannot vote in state elections outside the state I live in.

I live in the state of Texas and I have no say at all about who is elected in any other state. Since neither I, nor any U.S. citizen can vote in other state's elections where we are not a resident, I can't imagine why people who don't even live in this country would be allowed to do so.

Study our government and you will see that it is the senators and representatives from the individual states that make up our Congress who have the most power.

Everyone likes to dump on the president, but I can tell you that Congress must bless most of what a president does. Congress must fund anything the president wants to do. There is a pretty good set of checks and balances in place to prevent any president from abusing the office of the president.

While I believe the decision to invade Iraq was wrong and without good cause, our Congress did in fact vote to go ahead and do it. Members of both political parties voted to invade. George Bush instigated it, but he could not accomplish it without the backing of the majority of members in Congress. There is plenty of blame to go around.

So as much as some people might hate George W. Bush or Barrack Obama, neither of them did anything that Congress didn't affirm. Their powers are limited. There is very little any president can do without the backing of Congress.

C E Clark (author) from North Texas on July 30, 2013:

Thank you rajan jolly for reading and commenting on this hub and for voting on and sharing it!

jonnycomelately on July 28, 2013:

Since the politics and Presidency of the United States of America has such a big influence upon world affairs, and that every nation is effected by the Presidential outcomes, I feel there needs to be a concerted effort is sorting out the process, to make it more equatable and transparent.

Not saying, of course, that the rest of the world "bows down" to the United States..... just that everyone needs more of a level playing field and to be included in deliberations.

Rajan Singh Jolly from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA. on July 28, 2013:

Interesting read about how the electoral system works. Thanks for sharing. voted up, interesting and sharing it.

C E Clark (author) from North Texas on June 15, 2013:

Thank you Peggy W for pinning this hub!

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on June 13, 2013:

Going to start a new board on Pinterest called Do You Know This?...and this good hub will be the first post.

C E Clark (author) from North Texas on April 08, 2013:

Thank you for stopping by Shyron. The Electoral College only plays a part in Presidential elections. It has no part in elections for members of the House or Senators. So it will be another 3 years before people suddenly want to know what the Electoral College is and why it matters.

Shyron E Shenko from Texas on March 29, 2013:

It will not be long till the midterm elections, we do need reform of the electoral college. Great hub.

C E Clark (author) from North Texas on March 27, 2013:

Thank you Peggy W for reading, commenting, voting on, and especially for sharing this hub. I think we now have the technology to vote directly for president and in order to insure that everyone's vote will count, we should do that.

C E Clark (author) from North Texas on March 24, 2013:

Thank you Kathleen Cochran for taking the time to add useful information to this hub.

C E Clark (author) from North Texas on March 23, 2013:

Thank you Deborah-Diane for reading and commenting on this hub! Thank you for sharing your opinion.

Kathleen Cochran from Atlanta, Georgia on March 20, 2013:

Have you ever heard of the National Popular Vote Movement? Might be just what you and your readers are looking for. I never heard of it before last summer but it's been around for a while and might be in effect by the next presidential election.

Deborah-Diane from Orange County, California on March 20, 2013:

I agree that it is time to do away with the Electoral College. It creates more problems than it solves today.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on March 20, 2013:

Perhaps enough people will get informed about this way that the President and Vice Presidential candidates are chosen in the USA. I agree with you and whoever made these videos. It is time for change! We no longer rely upon the Pony Express to deliver our mail. Why stay with this antiquated system? UUI votes and will share.

C E Clark (author) from North Texas on July 12, 2012:

Thank you toto, for reading and commenting on my hub! I agree that we need to go to a more modern way of electing our president and our representatives. Along with the Electoral College, gerrymandering needs to go into a historical museum.

C E Clark (author) from North Texas on July 11, 2012:

Agree with you. With today's technology there is no reason why we couldn't go with a popular vote system so that every person's vote would matter/count.

Thank you for reading and commenting, Shyron!

toto on July 10, 2012:

Presidential elections don't have to be this way.

The National Popular Vote bill would guarantee the Presidency to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states (and DC).

Every vote, everywhere, would be politically relevant and equal in presidential elections. No more distorting and divisive red and blue state maps. There would no longer be a handful of 'battleground' states where voters and policies are more important than those of the voters in more than 3/4ths of the states that now are just 'spectators' and ignored after the primaries.

When the bill is enacted by states possessing a majority of the electoral votes– enough electoral votes to elect a President (270 of 538), all the electoral votes from the enacting states would be awarded to the presidential candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states and DC.

The bill uses the power given to each state by the Founding Fathers in the Constitution to change how they award their electoral votes for President. Historically, virtually all of the major changes in the method of electing the President, including ending the requirement that only men who owned substantial property could vote and 48 current state-by-state winner-take-all laws, have come about by state legislative action.

In Gallup polls since 1944, only about 20% of the public has supported the current system of awarding all of a state's electoral votes to the presidential candidate who receives the most votes in each separate state (with about 70% opposed and about 10% undecided). Support for a national popular vote is strong among Republicans, Democrats, and Independent voters, as well as every demographic group in virtually every state surveyed in recent polls in closely divided Battleground states: CO – 68%, FL – 78%, IA 75%, MI – 73%, MO – 70%, NH – 69%, NV – 72%, NM– 76%, NC – 74%, OH – 70%, PA – 78%, VA – 74%, and WI – 71%; in Small states (3 to 5 electoral votes): AK – 70%, DC – 76%, DE – 75%, ID – 77%, ME – 77%, MT – 72%, NE 74%, NH – 69%, NV – 72%, NM – 76%, OK – 81%, RI – 74%, SD – 71%, UT – 70%, VT – 75%, WV – 81%, and WY – 69%; in Southern and Border states: AR – 80%,, KY- 80%, MS – 77%, MO – 70%, NC – 74%, OK – 81%, SC – 71%, TN – 83%, VA – 74%, and WV – 81%; and in other states polled: AZ – 67%, CA – 70%, CT – 74%, MA – 73%, MN – 75%, NY – 79%, OR – 76%, and WA – 77%. Americans believe that the candidate who receives the most votes should win.

The bill has passed 31 state legislative chambers in 21 states. The bill has been enacted by 9 jurisdictions possessing 132 electoral votes - 49% of the 270 necessary to go into effect.


Follow National Popular Vote on Facebook via NationalPopularVoteInc

Shyron E Shenko from Texas on July 09, 2012:

Thanks Au fait, this explains everything clearly. We really need to reform this, because a few can put people in office who were not voted in.

C E Clark (author) from North Texas on July 07, 2012:

Thank you Jen, for reading, commenting, and bookmarking! Yes, it's true, that electors of the Electoral College do not have to vote according to the popular vote in their states. On at least 3 occasions they have not. With the technology we have today, there is no reason why we could not vote directly instead of giving members of the Electoral College a chance to ignore the wishes of the people in the process.

Jen on July 06, 2012:

This new to me. I have never understood how the electoral college worked before. I didn't know how the people were chosen to be on the electoral collge or that they didn't have to vote according to how the people in their state voted. Very eye opening. The videos were interesting to. Specially the one about why the electoral college doesn't work very well. Think I've read you before. I'm going to bookmark you. Looked at some of your other articles and it seems like you write a lot of interesting things. Really appreciate this one with the election coming up.

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