It may be confusing, it may not be perfect, but it has gone on like clockwork for over 200 years providing America stability, say the supporters of the U.S. election system as it is set to be tested again in Tuesday’s tight presidential race.The U.S. presidential election system, featuring the Electoral College, was established by Article Two of the Constitution, as a compromise between those who wanted Congress to choose the President, and those who preferred a national popular vote.
On Election Day, voters, generally, cast votes to select the candidate of their choice, but the ballot is actually voting to select the electors of a candidate.
Under the Constitution, each State is allocated a number of Electoral College electors equal to the number of its Senators and House Representatives in the U.S. Congress. The District of Columbia is given three electors.
Most States, excluding Maine and Nebraska, employ the “winner-takes-all” system, meaning whichever ticket wins the popular vote wins all of the State’s electoral votes.
Any pair of presidential and vice-presidential candidates who gain at least 270 electoral votes of the total 538 are claimed the winners.
Though the president and vice-president-elect can be yielded on the Election Day, the official voting for them by the Electoral College is held on the first Monday after the second Wednesday in December.
The Electoral College is but one of the many quirks in the U.S. electoral system. Yet there is no central body to supervise the elections. There is a Federal Election Commission (FEC), but it only supervises and enforces campaign finance laws.
The process of registering voters, conducting the balloting and counting the votes is left to State and local election officials, who have varying degrees of independence in how they do it.
In yet another quirk, questions of public policy may also be placed on the ballot for voter approval or disapproval. For instance election 2012 has more than 1,000 issues including right to die in Massachusetts, gay marriage in Maine, abortion in Florida and Montana, death penalty in California and segregation in Alabama.
Though since 2000 America has moved toward adoption of direct recording electronic (DRE) devices, some States still have paper ballots where one has to an “X” in front of a candidate’s name to “lever” machines to the controversial “punch-card” machines used in Florida.
Complicated, one may wonder. Yet there is a reluctance to change. For as Thomas Neale, a specialist in American national government at Congressional Research Service, says “It’s not perfect” but “we’ve had a pretty good record, 47 of 51” of popular vote winners becoming President.
But more important, an amendment of the Constitution requires ratification by three-fourths of the States, and the states are not going to give up their turf anytime soon.
Keywords: US Presidential elections