Every four years, Americans are reminded that the electoral college is still important. Rather than coming down to a simple total of the popular vote, November's presidential election will be determined by the electoral vote, as decided by the electoral college. In the electoral college, the states with the most electors hold much of the power.
As you undoubtedly learned in some level of school, the makeup of the electoral college depends on the distribution of the country's population. A total of 538 members of the electoral college represent the 535 members of Congress, plus another three electors for the District of Columbia. Once the popular vote from a presidential election is totaled, electors vote based on the preference of their states, and whichever candidate earns a majority of electoral votes — at least 270 — wins the election. If no candidate earns a majority of the electoral college's votes, then the 12th Amendment dictates that the decision goes to Congress.
In other words, the electoral college plays a major role in the presidential election process. So too does population. That's because the amount of representation that each state has in the electoral college is directly affected by that state's population, in the same way that population determines representation in the House of Representatives.
Currently, California — the most populous state in the U.S. — has the most electors in the electoral college with 55, according to the national archives and records administration. Texas comes in second with 38, followed by New York and Florida, which have 29 electors each. Pennsylvania and Illinois have 20 electors apiece, while Ohio has 18. In total, 21 states have double-digit elector totals. Meanwhile, there's an eight-way tie for the least electors: Alaska, Delaware, Montana, North and South Dakota, Vermont, Wyoming, and the District of Columbia all tout just three electors each.
The current allocation of electors will stand through the 2020 election. That's because the makeup of the electoral college is adjusted each time there's a national census. Despite the adjustments, the allocation of electors typically doesn't change that drastically from census to census. For instance, Ohio lost two electors in the adjustment made by the 2010 census, and Texas gained four electors. In total, eight states gained electors and 10 states lost electors, according to the National Archives.
Clearly, the electoral college system favors populous states, but it gives all states at least three votes toward the presidency. What's more, it gives representation to D.C., which is left out of congressional representation. Unless neither major-party candidate reaches the required 270-vote threshold, the electoral college will decide November's highly anticipated election.