After coming home from voting at the U.S. consulate yesterday, I was really excited about exercising my political rights as an American citizen. I jumped online and started looking up how the voting system works, and I was - surprised, to say the least.
Basically, the United States is a representative democracy, not a direct democracy. That I had known. But just how it was a representative democracy was what got me. There is a process in the U.S. system called the Electoral College. What happens in this process is that people elect a state representatives called "electors," and these electors are the people who actually choose who becomes president.
The system was supposed to be a compromise between writers of the Constitution who wanted the president to be elected by Congress and those who wanted the president to be elected by popular vote.
The problem is, although the electors pledge to vote for a particular candidate when voters are choosing them, they can always change their mind. And even scarier is the fact that a candidate who loses the popular vote but manages to win the electoral vote will still become president. That's what happened with George W. Bush in 2000.
Lots of people want the system to be changed, but so far none of the constitutional amendments that have been proposed on the issue have been passed.
- Q&A: The US electoral system (Al Jazeera)
- Overhauling the US voting system (Al Jazeera)
- What is the Electoral College? (The National Archives)
And here's a funny video on how the American elections work: