How does the United States presidential election system work?

Expert Answers
mkoren eNotes educator| Certified Educator

We have a process in the United States for electing our president. Each party must choose its candidate that will represent the party in the general election. Prior to the nominating convention, candidates for each party will compete in primary elections and caucuses for delegates to the nominating convention. Assuming a candidate gets a majority of the party’s delegates, that person will then be nominated to represent that party in the general election.

In the general election, each candidate tries to win the vote in as many states as possible. Each state carries a certain number of electoral votes. The number of electoral votes a state has is equal to the number of members of Congress that each state has. In order to become President, a candidate must get at least 270 electoral votes. When a candidate wins a state, the candidate gets that state’s electoral vote. In most states, it is a winner-take-all system. Whoever wins the popular vote in a state gets all of that state’s electoral votes. As a result of this system, candidates focus their attention and their campaigning in the states that have a large number of electoral votes and some key swing states where the vote is expected to so close that either candidate could win that state. States with few electoral votes or states that tend to vote for one party most of the time will get very little attention from the candidates. The goal is to get at least 270 electoral votes. If that is accomplished, that person will become the next president.