Each voter casts a vote after the general election for one of the two candidates. The newly elected president and vice-president will then be inaugurated on January 20, 2021.
Read more: Who won the first presidential debate?
How does the electoral college work?
The 50 US states and Washington DC have a set number of “voters” in the Electoral College – roughly proportional to the size of each state.
Each state gets at least three electoral votes because the amount is equal to its total number of senators and representatives in the US Congress. Washington DC also gets three votes in the Electoral College, making a total of 538 voters make up the Electoral College.
California, the largest state, has 55 electoral votes, Texas the second largest, 38. New York and Florida have 29 each.
All but two states – Maine and Nebraska – use a winner-take-all system, so if you get the most votes in one state, you take all of its constituency votes.
To become president, one or the other of the candidates must gather the majority of the 538 voters, that is to say 270 voters.
Although the Constitution does not require voters to follow the popular vote, many states in the United States have laws requiring them to do so. These laws have been challenged by voters voting for someone else on occasion, but in July the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that voters must follow the popular vote in states that have passed such law.
The electoral college system generally reflects the popular vote – presidents have won the electoral vote while losing the popular vote only five times in US history. The most recent case dates back to 2016, when Donald Trump won the electoral college but Hillary Clinton, his Democratic opponent, won the popular vote.
What are swing states?
The key to either side winning the presidential election is targeting specific battlefield states. There are several changing states that in recent elections have gone both ways. They hold the key to winning the election.