What is the Electoral College?

CD-2 Elector Sandra Brandt casts her vote.

When you go to cast your ballot for President and Vice President every fourth November, take a good look at your ballot. You are actually voting for your candidates' electors.

Each candidate on the ballot for President and Vice President is represented by a slate of electors pledged to that candidate and their party. In all but two states (Maine and Nebraska), the electors are elected on a "winner-take-all" basis, so that the winner of the state's popular vote receives the state's entire number of electoral votes.

The "Electoral College" is composed of 538 electors, nationally, as each state receives a number of electoral votes equal to the number of its members in the U.S. Senate plus its members in the U.S. House of Representatives. Washington, DC also receives three electors.

On the first Monday after the second Wednesday in December, each elector casts a vote for President and a vote for Vice President, and for a candidate to be elected nationally, he or she must receive a majority (270) of votes among the electors.

While states offer individual rules for the nomination of electors, The U.S. Constitution holds that anyone may serve as an elector as long as they are not a U.S. Senator or Representative or a "Person holding an Office of Trust or Profit under the United States." The 14th Amendment adds that individuals who have engaged in insurrection of rebellion against the United States or given aid and comfort to its enemies are also disqualified.

In most states, including Virginia, electors are bound to vote for the candidate or party to which they are pledged.

You might want to view Useful Electoral College Information Links for more information.

In Virginia

Gov. Kaine with State-wide Elector Sophie Salley.

Virginia hold 13 electoral votes (11 for its Representatives and 2 for its Senators).

For candidates of the major parties, the party's slates of electors are usually selected at each party's conventions or through appointment by the state party leaders. Independent or non-party candidates that qualify for inclusion on the state-wide ballot submit their slates of electors as well.

Every Presidential election year, the Democratic Party of Virginia elects their electors representing each congressional district in congressional district conventions which are open to the public. The two at-large or state-wide electors (representing Virginia's Senate seats) are elected at the state convention, which was also open to the public. Qualified delegates to these conventions are eligible to cast their votes for electors.

Virginia law requires that the electors cast their vote for the candidate to which they are pledged.

If you're interested, please see our compilation of Virginia State Election Laws involving the Electoral College.