With more than six weeks after the November 8, U.S. presidential election, the 538 members of the Electoral College will formally cast their votes for either Democratic Hillary Clinton or Republican Donald Trump on Monday, December 19.
Under the US Constitution, the real presidential election takes place on Dec. 19, when electors meet in the 50 state capitals and Washington, D.C. to cast their ballots.
To be elected a president, therefore, a candidate must score 270 of the 538 Electoral College votes, representing 50 per cent plus one vote or a simple majority vote.
The system originated with the US Constitution in 1787. It establishes the rules for indirect, single-round presidential elections by universal suffrage (not entirely universal: blacks and women could not vote at the time).
The country’s Founding Fathers saw this as a compromise between direct presidential elections with universal suffrage, and an election by members of Congress — an approach rejected as insufficiently democratic.
Since then, hundreds of amendments have been proposed to Congress in efforts to modify or do away with the Electoral College, but none has succeeded.
In the November 8 election, Donald Trump won a majority of electors (306 of the 538), but his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by a margin of nearly three million.
Millions of Americans who consider Donald Trump unfit to occupy the Oval Office have signed an online petition calling for Republican electors to block his election. Thirty-seven of them would have to do so to prevent the real estate mogul from being elected.
While Electoral College members vote on Monday, the states have until December 28 to transmit their “Certificates of Vote” to the Congress and the National Archives in Washington, which will then immediately post them online.
The formal announcement of the name of the next president will be made by the Congress on January 6.