How the US electoral system works and how states are won

Marion Dakers
THE President of the United States of America is not directly elected by the people, but by a group of 538 representatives known as the electoral college.

Each state has between three and 55 members of the college, weighted broadly by population. The members, who are typically local politicians chosen to recognise public service, normally vote in line with the popular vote in their state.

The system was set up when the United States was founded, as a compromise between slave states and free states. But no voting system is perfect, and the electoral college has a number of flaws. In a tight race, the winning candidate can clinch power despite garnering less than 50 per cent of the popular vote, providing they pass the magic 270 number in the electoral college.

And as in the UK, the system creates safe states and swing states, meaning the bulk of a candidate’s efforts will be focused on a handful of hotspots.