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Electoral College Determines Race

November 8, 2000

WASHINGTON (AP) _ A candidate need not win a majority of popular votes to become president, just the most electoral votes.

George W. Bush or Al Gore must secure 270 of the 538 votes cast by the Electoral College to occupy the White House.

Three times before in U.S. history _ 1824, 1876, and 1888 _ the winner of the popular vote has lost in the Electoral College and therefore lost the election.

The college is made up of representatives chosen by the voters of each state and the District of Columbia to elect the president and vice president. When Americans vote in a presidential election, they are picking representatives pledged to the candidates, not voting directly for the candidates themselves.

The representatives are usually chosen by state committees or party conventions. Each state has as many votes in the Electoral College as the total of its senators and representatives in Congress

The electors, who meet on a day in December usually in their state capitals, by custom or law vote for their party’s choice for president and vice president.

In most cases, the candidate who wins the highest number of popular votes in a state gets all of that state’s electoral votes. Nebraska and Maine are the only states that are not winner-take-all.

In January, at a joint session of Congress, the president of the Senate _ the vice president _ opens the sealed certificates and one Democrat and one Republican from each chamber count the votes. The candidate getting a majority is declared elected.

A tie in the Electoral College would throw the presidential election into the House of Representatives, and the Senate would choose the vice president.

In the House, each state’s delegation gets one vote. The candidate who receives at least 26 votes becomes president. In the Senate, each senator gets one vote, and whichever vice presidential candidate gets a majority of the votes cast, wins.

The Electoral College emerged at the 1787 Constitutional Convention as a solution to a squabble between one group that wanted the Congress to elect the president and another that wanted the election based solely on a popular vote.

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