Trump, Biden, and the magic number 270: an Electoral College primer

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In a few hours, the fate of the free world will be decided in what some experts are calling "the most important election of our lives." While such sentiment may seem melodramatic, it really does feel like there is so much more at stake this time around. Then again, anytime Trump is involved, everything feels do-or-die.

A global pandemic, a threatened democracy, a world divided—right now, we are living in a critical moment in history, and it's about to get even more serious. Everything has led to this very moment. Trump versus Biden: who will win the presidency?

All eyes, American and non-American alike, will be on the US this November 3. Americans will already know what to look for, but those of the latter group who may not be familiarized with the US election process should pay close attention to a single, magic number: 270.


270 is the minimum number of electoral votes a candidate must receive in order to win the White House. Such a number represents a majority of the 538 total seats that are available across the nation's 50 states.

This centuries-old system of appointment, known as the Electoral College, is established in the US Constitution. It has decided every single US president to date.

In 2016, Hillary Clinton still lost to Donald Trump despite receiving over 2.9 million more votes than him because she did not get enough electoral votes to win the majority.


Each state is allocated a certain number of electoral votes based on the number of House representatives it has, as well as its two senators. The following states have the most electoral votes and are crucial for victory:

  • California (55)
  • Texas (38)
  • New York (29)
  • Florida (29)
  • Illinois (20)
  • Pennsylvania (20)
  • Ohio (18)
  • Georgia (16)
  • Michigan (16)
  • North Carolina (15)

For Trump, re-election is contingent on a Florida win. Without Florida, it would be nearly impossible for him to keep the White House. Trump could also use a win in Pennsylvania, a historically Democratic-leaning state which he managed to flip in 2016.

North Carolina and Arizona have almost always voted red, so it is expected that Trump will hold on to those states. That said, Biden believes he still has a chance in Arizona, despite the fact that the state has not picked a Democrat for president in 24 years.


Along with Pennsylvania, Biden is hoping to reclaim Michigan and Wisconsin, which Trump also flipped in 2016. Though, his best chance at stopping Trump would be winning Florida, where he currently holds a slim lead according to recent polls.

Perhaps the trickier states to predict are Ohio and Georgia. Both are looking rather competitive for this election, so we'll just have to wait and see how it will play out in those states.

Photo by The Intercept

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