The United States is the oldest continuously functioning democracy in the world. Its constitution was ratified in 1788 and has been amended only 27 times since then. The first 10 of these amendments, called the Bill of Rights, were approved in 1790.
The procedure for electing a president is spelled out in Article II. Each state is entitled to a number of electors equal to that state's representation in Congress (Senate + House). Since each state has two senators and at least one Representative, every state has at least three electors. Currently California has the largest number of electors: 55. The electors meet in their respective state capitals in December of each election year to cast their votes for president and vice president. These electors, who together form the electoral college, are the ones who actually elect the president. If no candidate gets a majority of the electoral vote, the House of Representatives elects the president, with each state having one vote. This happened in 1800 and again in 1824.
Each state is free to choose its electors as it wishes. In the 18th Century, America was largely rural and most people were farmers who knew little about politics. In this climate, a direct election of the president would probably have been difficult in any case. In the early days of the nation, electors were chosen due to their wisdom and knowledge of politics, not due to their preference for any particular candidate. Even in the modern world, direct election of a distant president is not always so easy. For example, the European Union does not have a direct election for its president. Instead, a complex system exists in which countries, not citizens, are the key players, exactly like the role of the states in the U.S.
ELECTORAL VOTES IN FLORIDA
Florida will gain two congressional seats and two additional electoral votes as a result of 2010 census data. Florida, which has 25 U.S. House of Representatives seats now, will have 27 beginning with the 2012 elections.
The Sunshine State will have 29 electoral votes in the 2012 presidential election, up from 27 in 2008. This makes it the only state, other than Texas, to gain more than one. Florida has gained at least one electoral vote in every Census since 1930.
More information: http://2010.census.gov/2010census/data/
Each state determines how its electors are chosen by state law and the process varies from state to state. In states with primary elections, each presidential candidate usually designates a slate of electors who then appear on the November ballot. The voters are then actually voting for a slate of electors pledged to one candidate or another. In caucus states, the electors may be chosen at the state caucus. Electors are actual human beings, with houses, children, jobs, and very occasionally, their own opinions. In most states, the slate of electors that gets the most votes wins and gets to travel to the state capital in December to vote for president and vice president. In the bitterly contested election in Florida in 2000, George Bush carried the state by 537 votes out of over six million cast, and thus got all 25 of Florida's electoral votes. Since it is the electoral vote, not the popular vote, that actually elects the president, keeping track of it is crucial for people who want to know how the campaign is going.
If Florida's 25 electoral votes had been split 13 for George Bush and 12 for Al Gore, then Al Gore would now be president. There is nothing in the constitution mandating winner-take-all. The manner for choosing electors is regulated by state law. In fact, two states, Maine and Nebraska, do not use winner-take-all. In those states, the winner of each congressional district gets one elector and the winner of the state as a whole gets an additional two. Any state that wanted to adopt this system need only pass a state law to do so. No constitutional amendment is required.
Each state is assigned a certain number of electoral votes based on its number of senators and representatives. Each state gets one electoral vote for each senator and one for each representative it has in Congress. Every state has two senators and between 1 and 52 representatives, depending on the state's population. States with small populations, like Alaska and Delaware, have only 3 electoral votes. States with big populations, like California, have lots of electoral votes (California has 55!).
PRESIDENTIAL ELECTORAL VOTES - 1980 TO PRESENT