The President and Vice President of the USA are elected not by direct popular vote, but indirectly – through the mechanism of the Electoral College. The Electoral College in the United States is a system of indirect elections that elects the US President and the US Vice-President – the only two officials of the United States that are elected by the federal (covering the whole country) constituency.
Ticking off on the ballot on the day of elections, people mark to whom of the candidates for president and vice-president they give their preference. But in fact, American voters actually vote for the electoral group of their state, who then as a part of the Electoral College will have to call the president and vice-president.
The lists of electors are compiled by committees of the Democratic and Republican parties and are registered by the Secretary of State.
The US Electoral College has a total of 538 members. The electors’ number in each state is even to the number of its representatives in Congress (two senators and members of the House of Representatives, the number of which equals the number of electoral districts in the state). The District of Columbia is not represented in the Congress, but has three electors in the presidential election.
Under this system, the principle of winner takes all works, and all the electors from each state must vote for the candidate who obtained a majority of votes in that state. The candidate that got fewer votes does not receive anything, regardless of the number of ballots cast for him.
The names of the winners in the presidential elections usually become known almost immediately after the vote, but the formal process of electing the president and vice-president continues much longer. After the elections on a specially designated day (the first Monday after the second Wednesday in December of the year of elections) the Electors meet in their respective states and officially cast their votes for the candidates who received the highest number of votes of ordinary voters in the states. The results of the secret ballot of electors in a sealed form are then sent to Washington.
Officially the elected new president and vice president are considered only after the formal announcement of the voting results in the Electoral College in a special joint session of both chambers of the US Congress, held in Washington on the sixth day of January of the year following the election year.
Thus, the winner of the popular vote can lose a vote in the Electoral College. Three times the President in the US was elected a candidate who received less in the popular vote: R. Hayes in 1876, B. Harrison in 1888, and George W. Bush in 2000.
After these elections, critics of the system claimed that the opinion of the majority of the people is not taken into account. Elections in 1876 and 2000 were followed by accusations of fraud.
The President and Vice President of the USA are elected not by direct popular vote, but indirectly – through the mechanism of the Electoral College.