When Americans vote in presidential elections, they actually vote for electors, known collectively as the electoral college. These electors, chosen by the people, elect the President and Vice President. The Constitution assigns each state a number of electors equal to the combined total of its Senate and House of Representatives delegations, for a total of 538, including three electors for the ... [Show full abstract] District of Columbia. Anyone may serve as an elector, except Members of Congress, and persons holding offices of ?Trust or Profit? under the Constitution. In each presidential election year, a slate or ticket of candidates for elector is nominated by political parties and other groups in each state. In November (November 4 in 2008), citizens cast one vote for the entire slate of electors pledged to their favored candidates. All the electors of the slate winning the most popular votes in the state are elected, except in Maine and Nebraska which use the district system. The district system awards two electors on an at-large basis, and one in each congressional district. Electors assemble in their respective states on Monday after the second Wednesday in December (December 15 in 2008). They are expected to vote for the candidates they represent. Separate ballots are cast for President and Vice President, after which the electoral college ceases to exist for another four years. The electoral vote results are counted and declared at a joint session of Congress, usually held on January 6 of the year succeeding the election, but alterable by legislation. For the 2008 election only, Congress set January 8, 2009 as the date on which the joint session would be held. A majority of electoral votes (currently 270 of 538) is required to win. The complex elements comprising the electoral college system are responsible for one of the most important state functions in the American political and constitutional system: the election of the President and Vice President. A failure to elect, or worse, the choice of a chief executive whose legitimacy might be open to question, could precipitate a profound constitutional crisis that would require prompt, judicious and well-informed action by Congress.