How does the American electoral system work?

How does the American electoral system work?

Learn it now so you can be ready for the next one… if there isa next one. (Nah, there will be.)

The eyes of the world have been on the USA’s election, and it hasn’t been the easiest thing to understand. For starters, it isn’t like you vote either Democrat or Republican, and whoever gets the most votes wins. Why not? Because of the Electoral College.

What’s the Electoral College when it’s at home?

Right. So every state in America has a certain number of pointsthat go towards picking who gets to be president and vice-president. That’s thenumbers you see on the news when candidates go head to head – the winner needsat least 270 to take the big chair.

These points (which are actually votes, so don’t call themthat) come from 538 individual electors spread across the nation. They’re basedon the number of senators and congressmen/women a state has. Every state has twosenators, but Congress numbers differ state by state.

Which means California winds up with 55 of these individual electors, Texas has 34 and Alaska has 3. Obviously this means if you wanna earn the nickname “Prez”, you’ll spend more time sending love-heart eyes to Californians than Alaskans, because they’re more important in getting to that magic 270 number.

So in theory, everyone in a certain district votes for who they want to be president, those votes go to the elector, the elector says, “Okay my people want this person” and that’s that. But, of course, things get sneaky and complicated with stuff like gerrymandering.

What is gerrymandering?

This is one of the most dodgy elements of their system, froman Aussie perspective. Over here we have the AustralianElectoral Commission, a neutral, impartial organisation that runs all ourvoting-based stuff.

But in the US, that role is filled by whatever the opposite of neutral and impartial is. Basically, if you’re in power you can redraw the lines of electorates however you want. Which means you can do a squiggly line around the areas where you think friendly voters live, and cut out unfriendly voters. It’s basically cheating. Here’s an example of what that can look like within a state, depending who’s in charge versus a neutral system:

What else is there?

There’s also the idea of faithless electors, which means insome states they can ignore who won the popular vote and pick anothercandidate. If this sounds unfair… yup. Watch this for more info:




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