How to Understand the Electoral College

The Electoral College is the system of the United States that represents the people in presidential elections. Made up of 538 delegates, the electorate is based on the 435 House of Representative members and 100 senate members plus 3 electors representing Washington D.C.

A candidate must have an absolute majority of 270 electorates in order to win the Presidency. There is typically a single candidate per party: one democrat, one republican, and occasionally an independent. In the event of no majority, the House of Representatives votes on a Presidential candidate, with each state only having one vote, while the Senate votes on Vice President.

In the primaries and caucuses, each party has a select number of delegates to give out to the winning candidates within each state. Republican and Democratic National Committees have separately determined the number of delegates given to each state to be won by candidates.

As of May 10, Ted Cruz and John Kasich have dropped out of the Republican race. Donald Trump has 1,068 delegates, while those who have dropped out hold the other 883 delegates. A Republican candidate needs a majority of at least 1,237 for the nomination.

On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton is leading with 2,228 delegates to Bernie Sanders’ 1,454. A Democrat needs 2,383 delegates for the nomination. In the Democratic elections, superdelegates come into play and influence the vote more than people think. Superdelegates are unelected officials who are free to support whichever candidate they see fit for the Presidency at the Democratic convention. These special delegates have the power to swing the vote in the event of a close race. To date, Clinton has 523 superdelegates to Sanders’ 39. Superdelegates are included in regular delegate count.

With as many nominees as both parties had earlier in the season, those who won delegates and who have since dropped out have the option of releasing their delegates to the remaining candidate(s) or they can hold onto them in hopes of a contested convention. In the event of a contested convention, for either party, the process becomes slightly more difficult. First, the delegates given to each of the candidates are required to vote for them again in the first round of convention voting. If there is no candidate that reaches the 1,237 majority for the Republicans and a 2,383 majority for Democrats, then the delegates vote again, this time able to change their vote for whomever they see fit. If there is still no majority winner they continue to vote until there is a winner.