Love it or hate it, the U.S. electoral college exists to elect the country’s president and vice president - not “we, the people”.
With both candidates and their running mates now confirmed, it’s time to take a look at the peculiarly American body which decides elections.
Firstly, it’s important to say that the members of the electoral college should, and mostly do, vote according to how the people in their state have voted.
But that doesn’t mean that the candidate who wins the national popular vote is guaranteed a place in the White House.
We’ve see this contradiction play out twice in recent years. In 2000, Democrat Al Gore won the national people’s vote by more than half a million ballots, only to see George W. Bush, a Republican, elected by the college for his second term.
Even more recently - and likely the example you’re most aware of - Democrat Hillary Clinton won the popular vote in 2016 by nearly three million, but it didn’t stop Donald Trump becoming president.
The electoral college voted 304 to 227 in his favour.
You might think that such a system is an insult to democracy - especially in the ‘land of the free’. I know I do.
But the U.K. system is no better. There, the winning party is the one that gets the most MPs elected, with no account being taken of the number of votes cast nationally.
The multi-party system in the UK makes direct comparison difficult because it’s extremely rare for the winning party to receive 50% of the nation’s votes.
Not once has one party achieved that in the last 100 years.
But, with a focus on the U.S., what purpose does the electoral college serve?