How is the American President elected? – The Funda of American Elections

Did you know that the presidential candidate with the most popular votes does not necessarily get elected as the president of the United States of America? There have been several instances where the candidate with the most popular votes did not end up being the president. The list includes President John Quincy Adams in 1824, Rutherford B Hayes in 1876, Benjamin Harrison in 1888, George W Bush in 2000, and most recently Donald J Trump in 2016. All of them lost the popular vote, but ended up taking residence at the White House.

So unlike our country, the citizens do not get to directly elect the leader of the United States of America. The president is elected by a process called the Electoral College. The Electoral College constitutes 538 voters who elect the president of the United States of America.

How is Electoral College Formed?

America has 50 states and a federal district. The Electoral College is formed by the elected representatives of the 50 states and a federal district. Each state has two senators and the House of Representatives. The number of House of Representative is dependent on the population of the state. So, the numbers vary from state to state.

The map below shows the number of House of Representatives from each state:

Source : Wikipedia

The state of California has the highest number of House of Representatives which is 53. The state of Alaska has the greatest area but has only one US representative, due to its low population.

The United States Congress has two houses.

Upper House of the United States Congress

The United States Senate is the upper house of the United States Congress. It is composed of the elected senators from all the states. Each state has two senators who serve six year terms. So, the 50 states are represented by 100 senators in the upper house.

Lower House of the United States Congress

The United States House of Representative is the Lower House of the United States Congress. Each state, based on its population has a select number of House of Representatives.

For example, California has the highest number of 53 and seven states have only one – Alaska, Delaware, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont, and Wyoming.

The total number of House of voting representatives is fixed by law at 435 and there are currently 6 non-voting members. So, the 441 representative members form the lower house of the United States Congress. The elections for House of Representatives are held in every two years on Election Day, the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November.

Broadly, the presidential election happens in two phases. The first phase is completely democratic, where the general public gets to elect the 538 voters from each state.

So, on November 3rd the United States citizens are voting to elect the members of the Upper House and the Lower House of the United States Congress.

The elected 100 senators and 435 House of Representatives together form the Electoral College of 538 electoral voters. The 538 voters elect the future president of the United States of America. In the United States, 270 electoral votes of the 538 electoral votes are currently required to win the presidential election.

Proportion of Votes

Except for the two states of Maine and Nebraska, the rest of the states do not divide the Electoral College votes according to the proportion of votes each candidate gains.

For example, if a candidate wins 51% votes in a state like California, all the 55 electoral votes will go to that party. So, a landslide victory or a marginal victory will ensure the total 55 electoral votes for the candidate.

The candidate with the highest votes in the state wins all the electoral votes in the state. The votes are distributed in a winner takes all manner. So, the presidential candidate who bags the victory on the states with the most electoral voters has a chance at the White House. 

Swing States

Swing states are the states where the voters are not traditionally aligned to a particular party like Florida and Pennsylvania. They play the clinching effect in the US presidential election. Most of the states which are traditionally supportive of a political party do not get much attention in the elections. The candidates often focus on the swing states to win and are generally states with more number of electoral votes.

For example, in 2016, Donald Trump beat Hillary Clinton in Florida by a margin of just 2.2%, but this meant he won all the 29 electoral votes of Florida.

This year is going to be yet another interesting fight as even though Joe Biden is being considered the most popular candidate, the crucial electoral votes in the swing states will decide if Trump will win another chance at the Oval Office.

There are also some other interesting independent candidates fighting the elections to become the US President. Let’s look at 5 of the independent candidates running this year:

• Kanye West – Famous rapper representing the ‘Birthday Party’
• Brock Pierce – Former child actor and cryptocurrency entrepreneur
• Gloria La Riva – Anti-war activist
• Brian T Carroll – A retired teacher
• Jo Jorgensen – Psychology Lecturer

May the best candidate win!

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