American presidential elections are always held on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November. Voters do not, technically, participate in a direct election of the president. They choose “electors”, who are pledged to one or another candidate. This is known as the Electoral College. Each state has a certain number of electors to the college, based on the size of its population. In almost every state, the winner of the popular vote gets all the electoral college votes in that state. Because of this system, a candidate can take the White House without winning the popular vote, such as in the 2000 contest between George W Bush and Al Gore.
The Electoral College. The national presidential election actually consists of a separate election in each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia; in these 51 elections, the voters are really voting for “electors” pledged to one of the tickets. These electors make up the “Electoral College.” Each state has the same number of electors as it has senators and representatives (there are two senators from each state, but the number of representatives depends on the state population in the most recent census). The District of Columbia, although it isn’t a state, also participates in presidential elections — it currently has three electors.
The People in Each State Vote for Electors in the Electoral College. In most of the states, and also in the District of Columbia, the election is winner-take-all; whichever ticket receives the most votes in that state (or in D.C.) gets all the electors. (The only exceptions are Maine and Nebraska. In these states, just two of the electors are chosen in a winner-take-all fashion from the entire state. The remaining electors are determined by the winner in each congressional district, with each district voting for one elector.)
The Electoral College Votes for the President. The Electoral College then votes for President and for Vice-President, with each elector casting one vote; these votes are called electoral votes. Each elector is pledged to vote for particular candidates for President and Vice-President. In most elections, all the electors vote in accordance with the pledge they made; it is not clear what would happen in the unlikely event that a large number of electors violated their pledge and voted differently. Although Electoral College members can technically vote for anyone under the U.S. Constitution, 24 states have laws to punish faithless electors,hose who do not cast their electoral votes for the person whom they have pledged to elect.
Normally, one of the candidates for President receives a majority (more than half) of the electoral votes; that person is elected President. That candidate’s vice-presidential running mate will then also receive a majority of electoral votes (for Vice-President), and that person is elected Vice-President. If no candidate receives a majority of the electoral vote (currently at least 270), the President is determined by the rules outlined by the 12th amendment. Specifically, the selection of President would then be decided by a ballot of the House or Representatives.
(Courtesy:congress.gov.in , BBC)