Convoluted US election system explained

How does the convoluted US Electoral College system work? (Newshub)
How does the convoluted US Electoral College system work? (Newshub)

The United States has a far more convoluted electoral system than the apparently fair and simple MMP system that we enjoy in New Zealand every three years.

The US Electoral College system is an unwieldy, centuries-old mechanism constantly groaning and straining under its own weight.

It can produce a President without the most popular vote. In 2000, George Bush won the presidency while earning less popular votes than Al Gore. Bush won the race with more 'Electoral College' votes - 271 to 266.

The Electoral College is a group of 538 people (usually state officials or senior party figures) who in-turn choose the winner, but only 270 'electors' are actually needed to make a president.

Convoluted US election system explained

Not all states are equal. California has a population of over 38 million compared to Wyoming's 600,000, so California gets more 'electors' - 55 to 3.

When US citizens vote for their preferred candidate, they're actually voting for the 'electors', some of which may already be pledged to Trump or Clinton.

In almost every state (apart from tiny Maine and Nebraska), there is a winner takes all or 'first past the post' system in place, so the person who wins the most electors in the key battleground state of Florida for example (29 electoral votes to Delaware's 3), will get all of Florida's 29 electoral votes.

So in the race to the magic number of 270 electoral votes, Florida and other key swing states such as Pennsylvania (20) and Ohio (18) become vitally important.

It's all about travel time and religious worship.

In the late 1700s most US voters lived rurally and needed an entire day to travel to and from where they could cast their vote. They also needed three days a week for religious worship, so congress picked Tuesday because the only other day left in the week was Wednesday, and that was traditionally a market day.

Convoluted US election system explained

This American voter would need a day or two to reach the polling station (Getty)


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