Stephanie Hallett
November 09, 2016 12:08 pm
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If you were watching the presidential election results roll in last night and wondering why the heck Florida is so important in elections, you’re not alone. Political junkies were holding their breath as Florida’s precincts tallied their votes, and when Donald Trump was announced as the state’s winner the inevitability of him becoming president edged closer.

So what gives? Why do we care so much about the Sunshine State, especially in 2016? Well, it all comes down to the Electoral College — the centuries-old system we rely on to elect the president and vice president of the United States, and the reason Donald Trump is our future leader.

Below, we’ve answered your biggest questions about the Electoral College, and explained why Florida always has such a big impact on election results. Still confused? Talk to us on social media!

So what exactly is the Electoral College?

The Electoral College is the system we use in the U.S. to elect our president and vice president. It’s written into the Constitution, so it would take a lot to change or get rid of it altogether.

To sum it up briefly, the Electoral College is made up of 538 “electors” — people chosen by the states — who formally choose the president and VP. Each state is assigned a certain number of electors based on its share of senators and members of Congress (plus three for the District of Columbia) and the presidential ticket that wins in a state wins all of that state’s Electoral College votes (except in Maine and Nebraska, where the candidate who wins the most votes gets two electoral votes and the rest of the votes are assigned congressional district by congressional district).

Basically, this means that if a candidate wins California, for example, it wins all of that state’s 55 electoral votes. The first candidate to reach 270 Electoral College votes wins the election.

What’s the catch?

Here’s where the Electoral College system gets complicated: A candidate can win the majority of electoral votes but lose the popular vote — and still win the presidency. That’s exactly what happened last night: Hillary Clinton won 59,786,125 votes — 47.7% of the popular vote — while Trump won only 59,578,669 votes, 47.5% of the popular vote. Yet today, he is our president-elect.