Nominated persons, known as electors, from the states and the District of Columbia, who meet every four years in their home state or district and cast ballots to choose the president and vice president of the United States.
In the popular election, the American people actually vote for electors, not for the candidates themselves. The candidate who receives the majority of votes from electors takes office. Although the Constitution allows the electors to vote for any candidate, they usually vote for the candidate of the political party that nominated them. In a limited number of instances, the structure of the Electoral College has led to unusual election results.
The republican basis of the Electoral College stems from the Constitution. When the founders of the United States set out to secure a system of political representation, many among them feared mob rule. Elections based on representative blocks of votes would implement checks within the system. The Framers took into consideration that large numbers of regional candidates could appeal to the interests of various select groups, and thus the populace could be divided widely, and disturbances in the succession of power could ensue. They surmised that Congress should have the power to settle issues that are not resolved in a popular election, and thus they created the Electoral College. As a contributor to this system, ALEXANDER HAMILTON said that it made sure "the office of President will seldom fall to the lot of any man who is not in eminent degree endowed with the requisite qualifications." Rogue politicians, riding any waves of popular sentiments, would need to meet a higher approval before their election. The Electoral College thus ensured an orderly transfer of power, especially in the two-party system that the United States developed.
Electors receive their appointments from a wide and various informal circuit of possible electoral candidates during election times and are nominated in many states according to the guidelines of individual state legislatures. The procedures for nominating electors, whether at party conventions, primary elections, or party organizational meetings, differ throughout the United States. The terms of electors are generally not set by statute, and in some states parties adopt their own criteria for selecting the college's members. However, the Constitution provides that "no Senator or Representative, or Person holding an Office of Trust or Profit under the United States, shall be appointed an Elector" (U.S. Const. art. II, § 1, cl. 2).
In most states, only the names of the presidential and vice presidential candidates?not the names of the electors?appear on election ballots. The party that gains the most popular votes in a state receives one electoral vote for each of its electors. In each state, each party nominates the same number of electors as there are representatives and senators for that state in Congress.
On the first Monday after the second Wednesday in December...