The next leader of the United States will likely be decided within hours of polls closing Tuesday night, but the results aren't truly official until weeks from now.

On Dec. 19, New Jersey's 14 members of the Electoral College head to Trenton and cast their votes for president. Your vote Tuesday essentially decides which group of electors makes that trip — Democrats or Republicans.

Both groups have 14 members ready to go, based on the state's popular vote. On the Democratic side is the wife of Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto, both the vice-chair and treasurer of the Democratic State Committee and the president of New Jersey's Communications Workers of America. Gov. Chris Christie's father, the mayor of Hamilton in Mercer County and Hudson County's GOP chief make up a segment of the Republican side.

"One of the things that all the electors have in common, both Democrats and Republicans, is that they're politically connected people," said Brigid Harrison, political science professor at Montclair State University.

In New Jersey, electors aren't legally obligated to vote along with the state's popular vote — but they almost certainly will.

The chosen electors in New Jersey are a product of the state party chairs, sometimes in consultation with the presidential candidates themselves and high-level campaign officials.

At 14, New Jersey is said to have the most electoral votes per square mile than any state except Rhode Island. How many electors a state is allocated depends on the number of U.S. Senators and U.S. House representatives.

"American Democracy is filled with examples and structures in which we want the people, the masses, to have a voice, but we want some kind of elite protection against the masses if they go crazy," said Ben Dworkin, director of the Rebovich Institute for New Jersey Politics at Rider University. "Yes, we want to have the voice of the people driving our electoral system. At the same time, you want to put a check on it."

Dworkin said the state party chair typically awards an elector slot to those they want to honor or thank for their allegiance to the party. In turn, electors are essentially a lock to vote along party lines when their time comes, but New Jersey law does not require it.

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