Election 2020 FAQ: How does the Electoral College work?

2020 Election

Voters line up outside to cast ballots in the general election at the Henrico County general registrar’s office in Henrico County, Va., Friday, Sept. 18, 2020, on the first day of the state’s 45-day early voting period. (Bob Brown/Richmond Times-Dispatch via AP)

QUESTION: How does the Electoral College work? What’s the role of electors?

ANSWER: In order to become the president and vice president of the United States, the candidates must acquire at least 270 electoral votes. A candidate can win the election without winning the popular as long as they gain enough electoral votes. In 2016, Donald Trump lost the popular vote but won more electoral votes than Hillary Clinton.

The use of the Electoral College to determine the president and vice president is required by the Constitution. It was established as a compromise between using the popular vote and a vote in Congress.

Whichever candidate wins the popular vote in Virginia will be given all 13 of the Commonwealth’s electoral votes. There are 47 other states operating on this winner takes all method, Maine and Nebraska are the only states that use a proportional system.

Each state is designated an amount of electors based on how many members of Congress they have. Virginia has 13 total electors and Washington D.C. has three.

Virginia electors are typically chosen at each party’s convention or are appointed by the state party leaders.

To read the full FAQ, click here.


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