Greater coat of arms for the USA

Elections for the offices of President and Vice President were originally set forth in Article II, Section 1, and later modified by the 12th (1804), 20th (1933) and 23rd (1967) Amendments:

Clause 1: Executive Power

“The Executive Power shall be vested in a President of the United States of America. He shall hold his Office during the Term of four Years, and, together with the Vice President, chosen for the same Term, be elected, as follows[1]

Presidents and Vice-Presidents are elected by the Electoral College, whose members are selected by each state. Each state sets its own rules for selecting electors; but, generally, they are pledged to vote for whichever candidate wins the popular vote in each state. The number of electors for each state is equal to the number of Senators (2) for each state plus the number of Representatives it has. The District of Columbia has thee (3) electoral votes due to the 23rd Amendment.

Thus there are 538 Electoral College members for each Presidential election.

Electors cast their ballots on the Monday following the second Wednesday in December — this year, on Monday, Dec. 19, 2016 — following the national election. Then the current Vice President, as President of the Senate, opens and counts the votes in a joint session of the U.S. Congress.

The Presidential candidate that receives a majority of the electoral votes (270 currently) is declared the “winner.” The same procedures apply for the Vice Presidential candidate; however, the practical result is that the running mate of the declared winner for President is always elected as the V.P.

What If No Candidate Gets a Majority of Electoral College Votes?

If no candidate for President gains a majority of Electoral College votes, the U.S. House determines, by majority vote, who shall be President by casting votes for one of the top three vote-getters (in the Electoral College vote), with each state getting one vote. If no candidate for Vice President receives an Electoral College majority, then one is determined by a majority vote of the Senate from the top two vote-getters in the Electoral College vote. Each Senator gets one vote.

What If No Candidate for President Receives a Majority Vote in The House?

If no Presidential candidate receives a majority vote in the House by Inauguration Day, set for January, then the candidate for Vice President who received a majority vote in the Senate, shall serve as acting President “until a President shall have qualified.”(20th Amendment)

In the case of the death of the President-elect before Inauguration Day, the Vice President-elect then becomes the President.

What If One Or More Electors in The Electoral College Fails to Vote as Pledged?

The general rule, also known as the “faithless Electors” rule, is that an Elector’s vote cannot be changed, once it’s been cast. However, two states (Michigan and Minnesota) have enacted laws. stating if an Elector does not vote as pledged, then that Elector’s vote is “null and void.”

Twenty-nine states have laws that punish faithless Electors; however, these have never been enforced.

How Many Times Has The President Won The Popular Vote, But Lost The Election?

Only four times in our nation’s history did a candidate win the popular vote, but lost the election in the Electoral College or the House of Representatives (winner in bold):

  • 1824    Andrew Jackson vs. John Quincy Adams
  • 1876    Samuel Tilden vs. Rutherford B. Hays
  • 1888    Grover Cleveland vs. Benjamin Harrison; and
  • 2000    Al Gore vs. George W. Bush

How Many Presidential Elections Have Been Determined in U.S. House?

Only two elections have been decided by the House of Representatives:

  • 1800    John Adams vs. Thomas Jefferson, which prompted the 12th Amendment, and
  • 1824    Andrew Jackson vs. John Quincy Adams


Questions? Please feel free to email us at!

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This