Although it is possible for an Elector to cast his or her vote for someone other than for the popular vote winner in their state, this is quite rare in modern times. As a result, Electoral Votes for a state tend to be "all or nothing".
Maine and Nebraska have taken a slightly different approach in recent years. These states allocate two Electoral Votes to the popular vote winner, and then one each to the popular vote winner in each Congressional district (2 in Maine, 3 in Nebraska) in their state. This creates multiple popular vote contests in these states, which could lead to a split Electoral Vote.
The popular vote winner of a state must win* at least one of the districts. That is why (in our website and App maps) you cannot assign all the district Electoral Votes to the losing party in the state. Note that since these rules were adapted, Maine has never split its Electoral Votes. However, in 2008, Nebraska did for the first time, as Barack Obama won the 2nd Congressional District (Omaha and its suburbs), gaining a Democratic Electoral Vote in Nebraska for the first time since 1964.
State legislatures decide how to allocate Electoral College votes. There have been occasional efforts to change allocation methods over the years. These usually arise when the party of the losing presidential candidate differs from the party controlling the state legislature. If you'd like to learn more about some of the alternative methods that have been proposed and see how the 2012 election would have turned out if some or all of the states had used these different methods, visit our Gaming the Electoral College feature.
* This is true in our current political environment where two candidates (the Democrat and Republican) receive almost all the votes. It would not necessarily have to hold if there was a 3rd party candidate that received a significant share of the votes.
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