The Electoral College will pick America's next president on Monday. Here's how it works.

The Electoral College meets on Monday
(Image credit: AP/YouTube)

"The Electoral College is a process, not a place," says the National Archives. And on Monday, the 538 electors in this "college" who will formally pick the next president of the United States will meet in their own states to cast their ballots. The winning candidate needs half of the electoral votes plus one, or 270 votes. Since Donald Trump won a majority in states with 306 electoral votes, and most states legally oblige their electors to vote for the candidate who won the state, Trump will almost certainly get the nod.

Fewer than 1 percent of electors in U.S. history have gone rogue, The Associated Press notes, casting their ballots for a candidate who didn't win their state. No elector has ever been prosecuted for not voting as pledged, though some are saying this year they will risk jail to vote against Trump. Things have not always run smoothly in the Electoral College — there has been one tie, two presidencies decided in the House, one settled by a special electoral commission, and five cases where the Electoral College winner lost the popular vote, as happened this year.

"If the manner of it be not perfect, it is at least excellent," Alexander Hamilton wrote of the Electoral College after the 1787 Constitutional Convention where the compromise form of presidential selection was created. You can learn a lot more at the National Archives, which runs the Electoral College, or get a more concise and 2016-centric primer in the AP video below. Peter Weber

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Peter Weber

Peter Weber is a senior editor at, and has handled the editorial night shift since the website launched in 2008. A graduate of Northwestern University, Peter has worked at Facts on File and The New York Times Magazine. He speaks Spanish and Italian and plays bass and rhythm cello in an Austin rock band. Follow him on Twitter.