The American electoral system, which leads to elect the President of the most powerfull country and strongest economy in the world, is the most complicated electoral system in the world although it seems simple.
People often think, moreover like many Americans, that the ongoing presidential elections are crucial the decivive elections to choose the U.S. President. But this is not true, because we have to wait until early December to know who is the winner of elections that are full of absurdities.
Despite the competition between the two major parties, the Democrat and Republican, there are other smaller parties and independent candidates, like Ralf Nader, who apply in the elections. These parties or independent candidates have no role in elections other than the disintegration of the vote. They give an advantage to one of the two major rivals in accordance with what they give as opinions.
Independent candidates or those of small parties are included on the ballot in some states and not all, because of their inability to collect the signatures required. Therefore it is impossible to win the elections because of lack of voices of electors.
In addition, some states follow the so-called "write-in" that allows to include a name that does not appear on the ballot. This name should generally come from a list of people who have made a written request to the electoral commission.
Other states are with the free imagination of voters who may choose a name of their choice, even if it's a deceased person for a long time ago, without leading to the annulment of the vote. That's why, it is not surprising that the Organizing Committee of the elections finds, when counting votes, names such as Mickey Mouse, Elvis and Jesus, who regularly appear on the American ballot.
The mechanism to vote in U.S. presidential elections is very special, making the electoral system of the United States unique. When American voters go to the polls, many believe that they will participate in the direct election of the President, but technically, this is not the case because of the presence of the electoral college, an American constitutional tradition that dates back to 18th century.
The electoral college is the name given to a group of "state electors" who were elected by political activists and party members in each state. On election day, these electors, who have promised to support a certain candidate, participate in popular vote.
The U.S. presidential elections take place in phases. First, the preliminaries where Democratic and Republican parties choose, each, a candidate for the elections.
The second phase (the principal) is the popular vote which is taking place today. During this phase, candidates make their campaign until the election date that the U.S. Constitution sets the first Tuesday following the first Monday in November every four years. In this day, registered voters in 50 states forming the United States and the District of Columbia (Washington DC) vote for President and Vice-President.
Normally, the candidate who wins the popular vote in a state gets electoral votes across the state ( rule of winner takes all), because the "state electors" pledged to vote for that candidate.
The number of state electors in each state equal to the number of members of the Senate and House of Representatives for the state. Only the District of Columbia has three electors even if it has no representation in Congress.
The third phase of elections is the Electoral College. The state electots meet to officially elect the president and vice president. The meeting takes place the first Monday following the second Wednesday of December in an election year. To be elected President of the United States, the candidate must obtain 270 votes of the state electors whose total is 538 voters.
The practice has never seen the electors choose a different candidate than the one elected by the residents of their state. But theoritically they can do it. Nothing in the Constitution requires them to do so. In rare instances, a state elector will defect and not vote for his or her party's candidate. Such "faithless" votes rarely change the outcome of the election and laws of some states prohibit electors from casting them.
If no candidate for Presidency gets the majority of Electoral College votes (270 votes), the House of Representatives elect the President. The combined representatives of each state get one vote and a simple majority of states is required to win. This has only happened twice. Presidents Thomas Jefferson in 1801 and John Quincy Adams in 1825 were elected by the House of Representatives.
If no candidate for the position of Vice-President receives a majority vote of the electoral college, it's the Senate who decide the winner. The President and Vice-President take an oath on January 20th following the election.
States are not equal in terms of the number of electors in the electoral college. This number is defined according to the population of each state. The State of Oklahoma has 7 electoral college votes, while Louisiana has 9 votes, Alabama (9), Oregon (7), Maine (4) Alaska (3) Pennsylvania (21) Maryland (10) Arizona (10), Rhode Island (4), Massachusetts (12) and Arkansas (6).
The State of South Carolina has 8 votes in the Electoral College, Michigan (17), California (55), South Dakota (3), Minnesota (10), Colorado (9), Tennessee (11), Mississippi (6), Connecticut (7), Texas (34), Missouri (11), Delaware (3) Utah (5), Montana (3), Vermont (3), Nebraska (5), Florida (27), Virginia (13), Nevada (5), Georgia (15), Washington (11), New Hampshire (4), Hawaii (4), West Virginia (5), New Jersey (15), Idaho (4), Wisconsin (10), New Mexico (5), Illinois (21), Wyoming (3), New York (31) Indiana (11), North Carolina (15), Iowa (7), North Dakota (3), Kansas (6), Ohio (20), Kentucky (8), plus three votes for the District of Columbia where the capital Washington DC is.