The Electoral College decides who occupies the White House — not necessarily the electorate.
The electoral college is not a school, it’s a group of representatives of each state called electors. The founding fathers of the United States did not believe in just numbers, but representatives. They worried that states with higher populations will always produce the president.
So they allocated number of votes to states, based on the number of representatives they have in congress. California has 55 representatives in Congress, hence, the state has 55 electoral college votes. Florida has 29, while Washington DC, the seat of power has just three votes.
The US has 100 senators, 435 house of representatives members, and three electors from DC, bringing the total number of votes to 538. For a candidate to win in 2020, he has to win in states with higher electoral college votes — these states are called the key states.
Despite having less votes in 2016, Trump won 304 electoral college votes, while Clinton won only 227.
What happens when there’s a tie? The simple majority win?
It is very rare to have a tie in the general vote count because they are millions of people voting. But it is easy to have a tie in the electoral college, because there are only 538 votes.
But if there is a tie, the US does not fall back to the simple majority — even if one candidate has five million popular votes more than the other.
“In the case of the tie, it gets thrown into the US House of Representatives if there’s no winner. And that’s a whole other process that we don’t have a lot of experience with because that has only happened once,” Lonna Atkeson, executive director of the Center for the Study of Voting at University of New Mexico, said at a foreign press briefing.
If that happens in 2020, the winner of the election will be decided by the new house of representatives in January 2021. This would be one vote per district.
When is a winner naturally declared?
A winner could be called as early as 11pm on election night or later in the week, depending on who gets the necessary states count early enough.
If the states do not submit results early enough, it could be longer. If there is an electoral college tie of 269 to 269, then the winner is not determine till January 2021.