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Video:How the Electoral College Works

with Robert Longley

It can be confusing just to consider that in an American presidential election, the popular vote is really just deciding the actions of the electoral college. To clear up that confusion, here's a quick guide on how the electoral college works.See Transcript

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Transcript:How the Electoral College Works

What the Electoral College Is

Every four years, in November, after almost two years of campaign hype and money, over 90 million Americans vote for the presidential candidates. Then, in the middle of December, the president and vice president of the United States are really elected by the votes of only 538 citizens -- the "electors" of the Electoral College. Votes cast by the people of the United States -- known as the "popular vote" -- are used to choose the president and vice president "indirectly" through the Electoral College. Popular votes cast in the presidential election are actually being cast for a number of electors.

Break Down of the Electoral College

Each state gets a number of electors equal to the state's number of representatives in the House and Senate. There are a total of 538 electors. The candidate winning the most popular votes in a state gets all of that state's electoral votes. The first candidate to win 270 or more electoral votes is elected. But, it is possible for a candidate to lose the popular vote and still be elected president by the Electoral College. Four presidents who have been elected in this manner are John Quincy Adams in 1824, Rutherford B. Hayes in 1876, Benjamin Harrison in 1888, and George W. Bush in 2000.

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