Today, the 538 electors are meeting in their respective state capitals to take part in the Electoral College process set out in the Constitution.
Voters cast their ballots for president more than a month ago, but the votes that officially matter will be cast today that the Electoral College will meet .
The Constitution gives the electors the power to choose the president, and when all the votes are counted today, President-elect Joe Biden is expected to have 306 electoral votes, more than the 270 needed to elect a president, to 232 votes for President Donald Trump.
The spotlight on the process is even greater this year because Trump has refused to concede the election and continued to make baseless allegations of fraud. That makes the meeting of the Electoral College another solid, undeniable step toward Inauguration Day on January 20, when the new president will be sworn in.
In drafting the constitution, America’s founders struggled with how the new nation should choose its leader and ultimately created the Electoral College system. It was a compromise between electing the president by popular vote and having Congress choose the president.
Under the constitution, states get a number of electors equal to their total number of seats in Congress; two senators plus however many members the state has in the House of Representatives. With the exception of Maine and Nebraska, states award all of their electoral college votes to the winner of the popular vote in their state.
However, the Electoral College has been the subject of criticism for more than two centuries. One often-repeated gripe is the person who wins the popular vote can nonetheless lose the presidential election. That happened twice in the last two decades; in 2000 with the election of George W. Bush and in 2016 when Donald Trump lost the popular vote to Hillary Clinton by nearly three million votes. Biden, for his part, won the popular vote and will end up with 306 electoral votes to Trump’s 232. Trump was the fifth presidential candidate in American history to have lost the popular vote but won in the Electoral College.