Learn How Many Total Electoral Votes There Are

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In the United States, the president and vice president are elected by the Electoral College rather than the popular vote of the people. This system of indirect democracy was chosen by the Founding Fathers as a compromise between allowing Congress to elect a president and giving potentially uninformed citizens a direct vote.

As Alexander Hamilton wrote in the Federalist Papers: "Nothing was more to be desired than that every practicable obstacle should be opposed to cabal, intrigue, and corruption." The framers of the Constitution felt the Electoral College would answer that call.

A citizen's vote indicates which electors he or she would like to have represent them during the Electoral College process. Each presidential ticket has a group of designated electors ready to respond should their party win the popular vote of the people during a November 8 general election.

The number of electoral votes is derived by adding the number of senators (100) plus the number of members in the House of Representatives (435) plus three (3) additional votes for the District of Columbia. The District of Columbia was awarded three electoral votes with the passage of the 23rd amendment in 1961. This adds up to 538 total votes.

To win the presidency, a candidate needs more than 50 percent of the electoral votes. Half of 538 is 269. Therefore, a candidate needs 270 votes to win.

The total number of electoral votes does not vary from year to year because the number of members of the House of Representatives and the Senate does not change.

Instead, every 10 years with the new census, the number of electors shifts from states who have lost population to states who have gained population.

More About the Electoral College

Interested in how the U.S. democracy works? Learn more about the Electoral College:

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Kelly, Melissa. "Learn How Many Total Electoral Votes There Are." ThoughtCo, Aug. 14, 2017, thoughtco.com/total-electoral-votes-6724. Kelly, Melissa. (2017, August 14). Learn How Many Total Electoral Votes There Are. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/total-electoral-votes-6724 Kelly, Melissa. "Learn How Many Total Electoral Votes There Are." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/total-electoral-votes-6724 (accessed January 24, 2018).