Americans elect the President and Vice-president through a method of indirect popular election. On November 2, 2004, voters cast their ballots for a presidential candidate. However, votes actually count towards a group of electors who pledge to vote for a specific candidate when the Electoral College meets in December. The “Electoral College” is the unofficial term coined in the 1800s for the group of citizens selected by the people to cast votes for President and Vice President.

The presidential/vice-presidential pair who wins the popular vote in any given state receives all* of the state’s number of Electoral College votes. In the end, the winner of the race is the candidate who receives a majority (270) of the 538 Electoral College votes. The results of the 2004 election won’t be official until the President of the Senate counts the votes out loud at a special joint session of Congress held on January 6, 2005.

A More Detailed Description:

The 12th Amendment to the United States Constitution outlines the process for electing the President of the United States. This indirect method of popular election is known as the Electoral College. While some state laws regarding this process differ, the general method for electing the president is listed below.

  • Before the November election, political parties in each state create lists of potential electors(generally active members of the party) who pledge to vote for the party’s candidate in the Electoral College.
  • A state’s number of electoral votes equals the number of the state’s Congressional delegation [the number of U.S. Senators (always 2) PLUS the number of U.S. Representatives.] The District of Columbia receives three electoral votes, as determined by the 23rd Amendment to the Constitution. See Electoral College Votes per State for your state’s number of electoral votes.
  • On November 2, 2004, Voters cast their ballots for a block of electors who, in turn, will vote for a certain presidential candidate. The winner of the popular vote in each state receives the state’s entire number* of Electoral College votes.For example, if a Democratic presidential candidate receives the most votes in Texas, the 34 Democratic electors become the voting block representing the Lone Star state. Therefore, the Democratic presidential candidate receives 34 of the 538 total votes in the Electoral College. The winner of the 2004 Presidential Election is the candidate who collects 270 votes, the majority.
  • Each state’s block of electors (members of the winning candidate’s party) assembles in their respective state capitol on December 13, 2004. At this meeting, the electors sign the ‘Certificate of Vote,’ which is sealed and delivered to the Office of the President of the United States Senate.
  • A special joint session of the U.S. Congress convenes on January 6, 2005. At this meeting, the President of the Senate reads the Certificates of Votes and declares the official winner.

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