At 3:00 Eastern time on Monday Dec. 15, 538 electors in state capitols across the US cast the votes that actually elected Barack Obama the 44th President. Obama received, unofficially, 365 electoral votes (with 270 needed to win). The exact total will not be official — or Obama officially elected — until Congress certifies the count of electoral votes in a joint session on Jan. 6, 2009. The Electoral College was established in its present form in 1804 by the Twelfth Amendment to the US Constitution. Electors are not required to vote for the candidate who won their state — in fact, 24 states make it a criminal offense to vote otherwise, but no "faithless elector" has ever been charged with a crime. "On 158 occasions, electors have cast their votes for President or Vice President in a manner different from that prescribed by the legislature of the state they represented. Of those, 71 votes were changed because the original candidate died before the elector was able to cast a vote. Two votes were not cast at all when electors chose to abstain from casting their electoral vote for any candidate. The remaining 85 were changed by the elector's personal interest, or perhaps by accident. Usually, the faithless electors act alone. An exception was in 1836 when 23 Virginia electors changed their vote together. ... To date, faithless electors have never changed the otherwise expected outcome of the election."
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