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What happens when the US electoral college votes for the President on 19 December

All your questions answered

Rachael Revesz
New York
,Daria Segalini
Friday 02 December 2016 17:16 GMT
The electoral college system was intended as a 'compromise' from the founding fathers
The electoral college system was intended as a 'compromise' from the founding fathers (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

There are many uncertainties in the future. Jill Stein is leading the charge to recount the vote in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. The Trump campaign has sued to block the recount in Michigan. Faithless electors are popping up from Washington state to Texas. Petitions have been signed by millions of people.

But one certainty is that on 19 December, the electoral college body officially meets to vote for the next president.

But how does that work, and who are these voters?

All the most commonly asked questions are answered below.

Does the electoral college physically meet?

Yes. On 19 December 538 electoral voters will convene in their home state and physically write down the name of the candidate they want to be president and who they want to be vice president. The two ballots harks back to a time where the two people running for the two top jobs did not have to be on the same ticket.

For every electoral college member turning up to vote on that day, there will be another 538 at home, who did not get the chance to vote for their candidate.

So whoever gets the most votes wins?

Kind of. The winner must still get 270 electoral college votes. Mr Trump is on course to get 306 votes compared to Hillary Clinton’s 232 votes.

When is the official count of that vote?

On 6 January, members of the house and senate meet to carry out the official tally of the electoral votes. Two weeks later on 20 January is the inauguration, when the winner is sworn in as president.

Electoral College voting: How the United States decides its president

Who are these people who get to vote?

Electoral college voters are generally decided ahead of time by heads of the party in each state, and are expected to be loyal to their party. How they are selected and their responsibilities vary in each state. The age and profession and background of each voter might be dramatically different. Wikipedia has a full list. It varies from 19-year-old Levi Guerra in Washington state to Bill Clinton in New York.

Do the electoral college voters have to vote for their party’s candidate?

They are expected to, and normally do. According to government archives, more than 99 per cent of electors have voted as pledged. But they don’t have to by law. So-called faithless electors who vote for another candidate usually face a relatively small penalty of around $1,000. They could be disqualified and replaced by a substitute elector. So far no elector has been prosecuted.

How are electoral college voters distributed in each state? Why does Pennsylvania have 20 votes while New Hampshire only has four?

It does not depend on the population. There is a minimum of three electoral voters per state - two for the two state senators plus one for the minimum number of state representatives. The number of state representatives depends on the state population. The more representatives, the more electors.

The exceptions are Maine and Nebraska, which do not have a "winner takes all" system. They instead have a system of proportional representation.

Are faithless electors enough to overturn the election?

They are very unlikely to do so. A faithless elector does not mean they will vote for Ms Clinton.

They could not vote at all, or they could vote for another Republican, like the so-called renegade group, the "Hamilton Electors", in Washington state.

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