The election of a president does not end when voters cast their ballots on Election Day. Under the Electoral College system, a complex process begins long before voters step into the voting booth and continues for some two months after polling places close, culminating in the selection of the president and vice president.

Source: Compiled by CQ Researcher staff

Data for the graphic are as follows:

Time Period Description
Before the General Election Political party leaders and independent presidential candidates nominate candidates for elector in each state and the District of Columbia.
General Election Day When voters cast their ballots for president and vice president, they actually are voting for electors pledged to their party's candidates and who will ultimately choose the president. In 48 states and the District of Columbia, it is a winner-take-all system, in which, either by force of law or by tradition, all electors vote for the winner of the statewide or District-wide popular vote. In Maine and Nebraska, two electors vote for the statewide popular-vote winner and one electoral vote goes to the popular-vote winner in each of the state's congressional districts.
December Electors meet in each state capitol and the District of Columbia to cast their votes for president. The winner must receive a minimum of 270 electoral votes.
January 6 The newly elected Congress meets in joint session to count the electoral votes and declare the winner of the presidency. If no candidate wins a majority of the electoral votes — 270 — a “contingent election” for president is held in the House of Representatives. Each state's delegation casts one vote for one of the top three contenders to determine the winner. The Senate chooses the vice president.

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