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Voting and Elections

Popular Vote

What is the Popular Vote?  

  • When we receive the results from any presidential election, the public gets two different voter results: the Electoral College vote and the Popular Vote. The popular vote is simply the candidate that received the largest total number of votes from the American citizens that cast their vote. 
  • There have been only five Presidents in United States history that has lost the popular vote but won the elections. The list of Presidents that lost the popular vote but won the election are as follows: 
    • John Quincy Adams (1824)
    • Rutherford B. Hayes (1876)
    • Benjamin Harrison (1888)
    • George W. Bush (2000)
    • Donald Trump (2016)

Electoral College


What is the Electoral College and how does it work? 

  • Each state gets as many electors as it has members of Congress (House and Senate). Including Washington, D.C.’s three electors, there are currently 538 electors in all.   
  • After you cast your ballot for president, your vote goes to a statewide tally. In 48 states and Washington, D.C., the winner gets all the electoral votes for that state. Maine and Nebraska assign their electors using a proportional system. 
  • A candidate needs the vote of at least 270 electors—more than half of all electors—to win the presidential election.
  • In most cases, a projected winner is announced on election night in November after you vote. But the actual Electoral College vote takes place in mid-December when the electors meet in their states. See the Electoral College timeline of events for the 2020 election.
  • While the Constitution doesn’t require electors to follow their state's popular vote, many states' laws do. Though it's rare, electors have challenged those laws and voted for someone else. But in July 2020 the Supreme Court ruled that those state laws are constitutional. Electors must follow their state's popular vote if the state has passed such a law. - Summary bu

Books on Voting and Elections