Although TV ads tell us who to vote for, we actually do not vote for president—at least not directly. When voters cast their ballot on Tuesday, Nov. 8, they actually will elect other people to vote for them! This group that votes for president is called the electoral college.
The national presidential election is really a separate election in each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia. Every state gets electoral votes according to how many seats they have in the House of Representatives plus the Senate. That makes 538 people in the electoral college overall.
When we vote for president we are choosing which party gets the most votes in our state. In most states, whichever presidential ticket gets the most popular votes wins all the electors in that state. Nebraska and Maine choose two electors by statewide popular vote and the rest by popular vote within each congressional district.
The electoral college then votes for president and vice president with each elector casting one vote. The candidate who gets more than half of the votes by the electoral college is elected president, and will be inaugurated on Friday, Jan. 20, 2017.
But if no candidate gets a majority of the electoral votes (at least 270), then the Congress votes to choose the winners, with the House of Representatives getting one vote per state to select the next president, and the Senate voting in the new vice president!