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What You Need to Know About California’s Electoral College Electors

Congressional clerks help unseal and organize the Electoral College votes from all 50 states in the U.S. House of Representatives on Jan. 4, 2013.
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Congressional clerks help unseal and organize the Electoral College votes from all 50 states in the U.S. House of Representatives on Jan. 4, 2013.
What You Need to Know About California’s Electoral College Electors
What You Need to Know About California’s Electoral College Electors GUEST: Katie Orr, reporter, KQED

I Allison St. John and for Maureen Cavanaugh today is Monday, December 19. Hillary Clinton won a supportive California's electorates so all 55 votes of the states electoral college will go to her. Trump won the presidency with 306 electoral college votes to Clinton's 232 nationwide that is 37 votes ahead. People are raising all sorts of questions about how the electoral college reflects the popular vote which Clinton won by more than 2 million. Here from Sacramento we have Katie or who is the politics and government reporter for KQED and she's covering today's vote in Sacramento. Thank you for having me. The electoral college vote is usually a procedural step in it does not get a lot of attention and Donald Trump only needs 270 votes to win which he is expected to get. How realistic would you say is this last ditch effort to deny Trump the White House? I do not think it is very realistic. We have been seeing on Twitter already this morning that states on the East Coast that have already voted or their electorates have already voted have pretty much gone in line with the electoral count that we also on election night. There have been several lawsuits including one here in California by electors challenging the mandate that they vote along with the popular vote from their state. For instance electors here in California must follow the popular vote when casting their ballots. Those lawsuits have so far not been successful. Looks like this attempt to kind of divert the Trump presidency will not be successful. Who are some of California's electors and how do they get picked? As he mentioned there are 55 we get one Elector for every congressional representative that the state has and one for each of our two senators. The way they are picked varies depending on which party won the popular vote. Obviously this year Hillary Clinton one so the Democrats got to choose. The way they do it is the congressional candidates and the Senate candidates who received the top votes in the past two elections. For instance, Harris this year and Dianne Feinstein for two years ago each to get to pick an Elector. In your area at the back okay -- double -- Doug Applegate got to choose the Elector for this year. To the and he actually chose Francine Busby who is the San Diego County Democratic party chair. I spoke with her and she said she actually just called up the campaign and said do you guys have an Elector yet and if not I interested. And she got the job. It is highly competitive. It's a lot of party insiders and people who volunteered for campaigns or people who may not -- who may have connections or are generally chosen for this ceremonial role. , Chevy seen protests in Sacramento? Any people calling for an end to the electoral college? When I was coming in to the office this morning I rode down from the parking garage with about five women who were bundled up as it is pretty chilly here today. That does not seem to deter people I have not had a chance to run over there just yet but on Facebook it looks like there are several hundred people gathered outside the steps the capital making their voices heard. It is not likely to have much practical impact but I think a lot of these people feel like at least they are doing something to kind of stand up for what they believe in. Do the electors have to vote for the presidential candidate who won the popular vote in their state? In this state, yes. It is different and every state. There are 29 states and the District of Columbia that require electors to follow the popular vote when casting their ballots. In fact here in California I was told electors only get one choice on the ballot. For the presidential ballot Hillary Clinton and there is a yes or no box next to her name and of the vice presidential ballot Tim Kane yes or no. It's a very ceremonial process there is no time for them to speak or grandstanding you cast a ballot and that's it. The bones are actually tallied twice. It's a very formal procedural process that should take about 90 minutes but the electors are expected to cast their ballots in the way that the popular vote dictate. We should mention that there are some elected officials in California that plan to resist some of presidential elect Trump's policies. Absolutely I just did a story on this a lot of the Democratic lawmakers have been making a big deal over the facts that they plan to be -- for lack of a better term the resistance to a Trump presidency. California's kind of striking out and says it will not go along with policies that might harm the state's policies on things like the environment, civil rights, undocumented immigration along those lines. It is set in the state up for some big fights with the federal government and there is a lot of money at stake. Last many the -- last year the federal government gave California $96 billion. There is that component to keep in mind when they are fighting the federal government. And the couple seconds we have left went to the votes get counted? The session starts today at 2:00. It will take about 90 minutes and then on January 6 the U.S. Congress will count all of the votes from all of the states and make the decision final. Okay Katie. Thank you for joining us.

You may have thought the presidential election was over weeks ago, but there’s another step in the process. Members of the national Electoral College must formally cast their votes. Whichever candidate receives 270 or more votes will be sworn in as the next president of the United States.

Who are California’s electors?

California gets 55 electoral votes, one for each of its U.S. senators and its 53 members of Congress. California has 55 electors, and they each get to cast two votes: one for president, one for vice president. The party whose candidate wins the popular vote in California gets to choose the electors, and each has a different method.

The Democrats, who won this year, allow each Democratic congressional nominee and each Senate nominee from the last two elections to choose an elector.

QUIZ: Who Are the Electoral College Electors?

Must electors vote for whoever won the popular vote in the state?

California is among the 29 states and the District of Columbia that require electors to vote for the candidate who won the state’s popular vote.

Generally electors are party loyalists who tend to support the winning candidate. Still, state election code does compel them to vote for the popular vote winner. It reads: “The electors, when convened, if both candidates are alive, shall vote by ballot for that person for President and that person for Vice President of the United States, who are, respectively, the candidates of the political party which they represent.” Since the electors all represent the winning party, this ensures the candidate who won the popular vote will receive all the electoral votes.

This year a California elector challenged the law requiring electors to follow the popular vote. A federal judge ruled against him and the elector has appealed. The legal challenge has been called a last-ditch effort to block Donald Trump from getting enough electoral votes to win the presidency.

How do electors cast their votes?

The state code requires the designated electors to meet in Sacramento, “at 2 o clock in the afternoon on the first Monday after the second Wednesday in December next following their election.”

On that day the electors will meet in the state Assembly chambers to formally cast their votes. They will be sworn into office and presented with two simple ballots, one for president and one for vice president. The electors must simply vote yes or no for the Democratic nominees. There are no other candidates on the ballot and no space to write in a candidate. The votes will be tallied in the meeting.

You can watch the vote live online at 2 p.m. Monday. The votes from all of the country’s electors will be counted in a joint session of Congress on Jan. 6.

What questions do you have about the Statewide General Election coming up on Nov. 8? Submit your questions here, and we'll try to answer them in our reporting.