A Comprehensive Guide to the United States Electoral System: Demystifying the Process

By Adedayo Ebenezer Oyetoke Published on: January 5th 2024 | 4 mins, 605 words Views: 216

The United States is a democratic nation, and its electoral system plays a crucial role in shaping the country's political landscape. Understanding the intricacies of the US electoral system is essential for anyone interested in American politics. In this blog, we will delve into the various aspects of the US electoral system, explaining each component in detail and providing examples to illustrate the process. 

Part 1: The Two Pillars of the US Electoral System

The US electoral system can be broken down into two main pillars: the Electoral College and the popular vote. Let's explore each of these in detail.

1. The Electoral College

The Electoral College is a group of electors who represent the states of the United States. There are 538 electors in total, with each state being allocated a number of electors equal to its number of congressional representatives. For example, California, with 53 congressional representatives, has 53 electors. The electors cast their votes for the president and vice president, and the candidate who receives the most votes wins the election.

The Electoral College has a few unique features:

- It is designed to promote national unity by ensuring that the president is chosen by a majority of the electors, rather than simply by a plurality of the popular vote.

- It allows for the possibility of a candidate winning the election without receiving a majority of the popular vote. This is known as the "electoral college paradox."

- It can lead to a situation where the popular vote winner does not become president, as happened in 2 2000 and 2016.

2. The Popular Vote

The popular vote refers to the number of votes cast for a candidate by the general electorate. It is not the deciding factor in the election; instead, it serves as a measure of public sentiment and a way to determine the winner of the popular vote. The popular vote is not binding, and it does not determine the outcome of the election.

Part 2: The Electoral Process

The electoral process in the United States is a complex and multistage affair. Here's a step-by-step breakdown of the process:

1. Election Day

On Election Day, voters cast their ballots for the president and vice president. They also vote for electors who will represent their state in the Electoral College.

2. The Counting of Votes

After Election Day, the votes are counted on a state-by-state basis. The results are then reported to the National Archives, which certifies the results and publishes them in the Electoral College Certificate.

3. The Electoral College Meeting

The electors convene in their respective states on December 14, known as the Electoral College Day. They cast their votes for the president and vice president based on the results of their state's popular vote. The votes are then counted, and the candidate who receives the most electoral votes becomes the president-elect.

Part 3: The Electoral College and the 2020 Election

The 2020 election saw a close race between Joe Biden and Donald Trump. Biden ultimately won the popular vote, but Trump won the Electoral College, leading to a contentious transition of power.

- Biden won the popular vote with 81,289,790 votes, while Trump received 74,904,955 votes.

- Biden won the Electoral College with 306 electoral votes, while Trump won 232 electoral votes.

The 2020 election highlighted the tension between the Electoral College and the popular vote, as well as the potential for gridlock in the event of a close election.


The United States electoral system is a complex and multifaceted institution that plays a crucial role in shaping the country's political landscape. By understanding the intricacies of the Electoral College and the popular vote, we can gain a deeper appreciation for the democratic process and the role it plays in ensuring a fair and representative government.

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