President-elect Joe Biden has already won, by virtually every media outlet, more than enough electoral votes to win the White House, though President Donald Trump has not conceded the election.
Joe Biden becomes first presidential candidate to receive 80 million votes
However, if no presidential candidate had won at least 270 electoral votes, the House decides the election under the 12th Amendment. This has happened only once: in 1824, when the House elected John Quincy Adams as president.
If no vice presidential candidate wins at least 270 votes, the Senate elects the vice president, also under the 12th Amendment.
Biden is scheduled to be inaugurated at noon on Jan. 20.
The Electoral College was devised at the Constitutional Convention in 1787. It was a compromise between those who wanted direct popular elections for president and those who preferred to have Congress decide. At a time of little national identity and competition among the states, there were concerns that people would favor their regional candidates and that big states with denser populations would dominate the vote.
The Electoral College has 538 members, with the number allocated to each state based on how many representatives it has in the House, plus its two senators. The District of Columbia gets three, despite the fact the home to Congress has no vote in the nation’s legislative system.
While the Constitution doesn’t require electors to follow their state’s popular vote, many states’ laws do. Though it’s rare, electors have challenged those laws and voted for someone else. But in July, the Supreme Court ruled those state laws are constitutional. Electors must follow their state’s popular vote, if the state has passed such a law.