National Archives at Boston

Featured Documents of the Month from NARA at Boston

Declaration of Independence

Citation: Certificate of Vote 1960; Massachusetts Electors; RG 21 Electoral Certifications; National Archives at Boston.

The presidential election of 1960 was a close one. Kennedy won 49.72% of the popular vote (303 electors); Nixon had 49.55 (219 electors). In Massachusetts, 16 electoral votes were cast on December 19th, 1960, for John F. Kennedy of Massachusetts for President and Lyndon B. Johnson of Texas for Vice President.

The Electoral College is administered by the National Archives. In 2012, the Electors will meet on December 17th to select the President and Vice President of the United States. The electors record their votes on SIX original "Certificates of Vote," which are paired with the remaining SIX original "Certificates of Ascertainment." The electors sign, seal, and certify the packages of electoral votes and immediately send them to Federal and State officials as detailed by National Archives procedures.

The Electoral College is not a place; it is a process that began as part of the original design of the U.S. Constitution. The Electoral College was established by the founding fathers as a compromise between election of the president by Congress and election by popular vote.

The people of the United States vote for the electors who then vote for the President.

The term "electoral college" does not appear in the Constitution. Article II of the Constitution and the 12th Amendment refer to "electors," but not to the "electoral college."

The founders appropriated the concept of electors from the Holy Roman Empire (962 - 1806). Electors were princes who participated in the election of the German king. The term "college" (from the Latin collegium) refers to a body of persons that acts as a unit. The term "electoral college" was first written into Federal law in 1845.

Today a President must win 270 electoral votes, a majority, to become President. If no candidate wins a majority of electoral votes, the 12th Amendment to the Constitution provides for Presidential election by the House of Representatives with each state delegation receiving one vote. Twice in our history, the House of Representatives has chosen the President -- Thomas Jefferson's election in 1801 and John Quincy Adams's election in 1825.

Learn more about the Electoral College at