The calculation of election results varies between different places and different types of elections, but in the United States, a tally of the number of electoral votes that each candidate receives determines the result of the presidential elections. Each state has a predetermined number of electoral votes, which candidates receive based on the popular vote within that state. A candidate needs a majority of 270 electoral votes to win the presidency.
The Electoral College is the system established by the founding fathers to determine the outcome of a presidential election. It consists of a total of 538 electors, divided between the states. Each elector is able to cast one vote for a presidential candidate.
The number of electors allotted to each state is the same as the number of Congress members the state has. Forty-eight states, as well as the District of Columbia, award all of their electoral votes to the winner of the popular vote within that state. However, Nebraska and Maine divide their electoral votes proportionally between candidates.
Because of the different population sizes and different numbers of electoral votes in each state, it is possible for a presidential candidate to win the national popular vote but lose the election because they received fewer electoral votes. This has occurred several times throughout U.S. history, most recently in 2000 when President George W. Bush won more electoral votes than Albert Gore but received fewer individual votes nationwide.