Every four years, the United States goes through another presidential election. There are a lot of things that have to happen in very specific ways, and sometimes the process doesn’t go very smoothly. That’s when it gets really confusing.
The Electoral College
The people of the United States don’t elect the president. The people of each state vote to choose which candidate they want their state to support. Then the states have special delegates, called electors, vote for the president.
The Original Method and Its Problems
Originally, each elector voted by writing down two names without specifying which was for president and which was for vice president. Congress would then count the votes. The candidate who won the most votes, as long as it was a majority, became president. The one who came in second became vice president. If no candidate won a majority of the votes or if there was a tie, the House of Representatives would vote immediately to pick the president.
Twice this caused problems. In 1796, John Adams won a majority of the electoral votes and Thomas Jefferson came in second. They were from different political parties and didn’t work together very well. Then in 1800, Thomas Jefferson tied against Aaron Burr. A simple majority of the state delegations in the House of Representatives was needed, but it took six days to get it.