The election process for the United States President is very difficult to understand. In fact, only 1-2 percent of Americans actually fully understand the Electoral College.
The framers of the constitution believed that:
1) The President should be elected by people who owned land.
2) The President should be elected by "knowledgeable" people. Since many people did not live near a city, and there was no major way of communicating, many people were uninformed on the Presidential election and the issues of the candidates. Therefore the founders believed only the members of Congress should be allowed to vote.
3) Distance between population centers would inhibit people from voting. Referring back to number 3, many people did not live near cities, and often times the population was very spread out, making it very difficult to get to a place to cast a ballot.
4) Popular elections could lead to disorder through the rise of factions or parties.
In the world today America's Electoral College is in fact the least understood election process in the world. In most states electors are "winner take all". This means, whichever candidate receives a majority of the vote, or a plurality of the popular vote, gets all of that states electoral votes. In the two states that don't have the "winner take all" method, Maine and Nebraska, they go by congressional district.
After the election in November, electors meet the Monday after the second Wednesday in December to cast their votes. There has been cases where an elector was supposed to vote one way and voted the other, in the "winner take all" states. No where does it say one cannot do that, and it has never influenced an election one way or the other. Once the electors cast their vote, the ballots are then sent to the President of the Senate (Vice President) in Washington, D.C. We usually know in a few hours after the polls close who won, but not officially until January 6th when the electoral ballots are counted. 270 electoral votes are needed to win.
If 270 votes is not received, then the House of Representatives votes, 1 for each state. 26 votes is then needed to win. This whole process must happen by January 20th. If a state does not decide y January 20th, that states vote doesn't get counted.
The Electoral College has 3 major flaws.
1) The popular vote does not elect the President because of 2 factors.
~ Winner take all.
~Electoral College distribution of votes. Example: Each state receives 2 electoral votes for senate and 1 for each Representative. California - 1 vote per 500,000 people. Alaska - 1 vote per 180,000 people.
This has happened 4 times.
2) No law requires electors to cote a certain way.
~ State laws may require but may be unconstitutional.
* This has never been challenged.
* Never has had an impact on an election.
3) Elections decided in the House - 3 objections
~ Small states have same weight as large states.
~ State delegates may not be able to decide and lose their vote.
~ Need majority vote to win.
* 3rd party could make this impossible.
The question in the back of many people's minds is this, if Electoral College is so difficult, why not change it?
Reforms to the Electoral College:
2 electors from each state "at large" cast vote as state votes
Each congressional district gets 1 vote, cast vote as district votes.
ADVANTAGES: Does away with "winner take all"
DISADVANTAGES: Would not eliminate popular vote.
Presidential candidates receive the same proportion as the popular vote.
ADVANTAGES: Eliminates "winner take all"
DISADVANTAGES: Still have problem of popular vote.
National Bonus Plan:
Keep the current system, add a "national pool" (100 electoral votes that go to candidate with least amount of popular votes).
ADVANTAGES: Solves all problems of Electoral College.
PROBLEMS: Small states oppose. Increased voter fraud. Changes balance of power across the nation. Little chance of passing.