First off. in understanding the exact meaning of the term Electoral College, think of it also as a system of electing legislators such as House Representatives and Senators, whilst choosing the next President. The United States is one of several countries that observe this election process, but each country has its own set of rules on how the voting process transpires.
First Part of the Electoral College Process
The Electoral College process starts with the selection of a specific number of potential electors for each state. In most U.S.states, the political party to which an aspiring house representative or senatorial candidate is affiliated, decides who will be included as potential electors for their state. Choosing the potential elector will be based on the party’s selection method and set of criteria. Still, there are some states that let voters choose the set of electors by way of a general election.
The number of congressional representatives to be selected as potential electors varies, as it depends on the population of a state. California, being the most populous American territory, has the highest number of electors at 55 in all; comprising 53 House Representatives and 2 Senators. Each state, regardless of population size has 2 Senators.
Although the District of Columbia in Washington is not a state, the 23rd Amendment of the Constitution, had granted an allocation of 3 electors for purposes of the Electoral College.
All in all, there are 538 electors; comprising 435 Congressmen or Lower House Representatives, 100 Senators or Upper House Representative, both coming from all U.S. states and 3 electors from the District of Columbia, (1 Representative plus 2 Senators).
Second Part of Electoral College : Presidential Election
Every four years, on the Tuesday following the first Monday of November, voters will be casting their votes for their preferred presidential candidate. On a state level, the presidential candidate who wins in the presidential election also gets to win the electors associated with his or her candidacy in the state in which he or she won.
Take note that at this point, even if a presidential candidate wins by overall popular votes cast in his or her favor, the number of electors won by that presidential candidate will still determine if he or she gets to be officially elected as the next president of the United States.
However, in the states of Maine and Nebraska, the winning president in their Electoral College does not get all electors associated to his candidacy, as those states adhere to the principle of “proportional representation.”
The governor of each state will then submit to Congress a “Certificate of Ascertainment”, declaring the presidential candidate who won in his or her jurisdiction, along with a list of state electors won by that president.
Electors listed in the “Certificate of Ascertainment” will then meet on the December, following the presidential elections in their respective state. The purpose of which is to officially cast votes for their supported presidential and vice presidential candidates. After which, every state issues a “Certificate of Vote,” indicating the number of votes cast by all state electors for a presidential and vice presidential candidate.
Based on the “Certificates of Vote” submitted by each state, a final count of all electoral votes cast will be presided by the incumbent Vice President. Once the final tally has been established, the Vice President declares the official winners. They will then be sworn into office as the next President and Vice President of the United States, on January 30th immediately following the completion of the Electoral College process.