What is the Electoral College?

Candidates must reach 270 electoral votes.

(Joe Hall/Flickr Commons/CC BY 2.0)

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – Voters Tuesday may assume their vote goes directly to a presidential candidate, but that’s not actually the case.

Every state has electors– men and women who support each candidate and usually represent the state’s popular vote on Election Day.

All but two states, Maine and Nebraska, have a winner-take-all electoral basis. This means that in these 48 states, whichever candidate wins the popular vote, gets all of the state’s electoral votes.

The candidate who wins the popular vote in each state will then send his or her electors to the state’s capitol, where they officially record the votes. A presidential candidate must win at least 270 electoral votes to declare victory. Massachusetts has 11 elector votes.

There is no federal law that requires electors to vote a certain way, and they have voted against the popular vote in the past. In 2000 for example, Republican George W. Bush won the national election with a majority of the elector votes, but Democrat Al Gore actually won the popular vote.

The Electoral College has been around since 1778 and is meant to ensure the representation of smaller states.