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Learn About the Electoral College

Today, U.S. citizens vote for president and other offices. But did you know the president is not chosen by a nationwide popular vote?

After today’s general election ballots are counted, electors in the Electoral College system will cast their votes for U.S. president in December. When their votes are counted in January, the presidential candidate who gets more than half (270 votes) wins the election.

Each state has a certain number of electors, based on each state’s total number of members of Congress. For example, a large state like California has 54 electoral votes, while Rhode Island has only four. All together, there are 538 electoral votes.

The founding fathers established the Electoral College in the Constitution as a compromise between election of the president by a vote in Congress and election of the president by a popular vote of qualified citizens.

Learn more about the Electoral College, including who the electors are, and key dates for the 2012 presidential election.

See if you can predict who will win the presidential election, and check out a children’s guide to the electoral college process.