Expert explains the Electoral College and how U.S. presidents are elected

The Electoral College is a landmark of U.S. politics and is important to understanding how presidents are elected.

But it can also be a bit puzzling.

“It’s the singular most confusing element of U.S. presidential elections,” said University of South Florida professor Dr. Susan MacManus. “The Electoral College dates back to the formation of the country. There was a compromise between large and small states to come up with a plan that would give each state representation in the selection of the president.”

It’s remained that way ever since.

How many electoral votes a state gets is based on population, the number of House seats they have in Congress, plus their two U.S. Senators.

THE ELECTORAL COLLEGE: How does it work? Why do we have it? Could it ever change?

Florida has 29 electoral votes.

The candidate who gets the most votes in a state gets all of the electoral votes.

When you cast your vote, it’s going to a list of electors, pre-selected by the campaign.

“So whoever wins Florida, the electors pledged to that candidate will actually cast their votes in Florida in Tallahassee," MacManus said.

This process happens on December 14. On January 6, 2021, those votes are counted during a joint session of Congress.

Critics claim the Electoral College is biased toward battleground states. In 2012, then-businessman Donald Trump called it a “disaster for democracy.”

MacManus disagrees.

“It is fair because it’s based on population size,” she said.

Since 1860, Florida has picked the winner of the presidency 27 out of 38 times.

And remember, the first candidate to make it to 270 electoral votes wins.

If there’s a tie, or neither candidate gets to 270, the house of representatives appoints the president, and the Senate chooses the vice president.