The Constitution of
the United States mandates the procedure by which Americans select their President.
The President and Vice-President are elected by an "Electoral College", rather
than by direct popular vote. Each state is allocated "electoral votes" equal to
the total number of Senators and Representatives allocated to that state. The District of
Columbia is also allocated 3 electoral votes. On election day, voters are actually voting
for Electoral College members who promise to vote for the candidates of their respective
political parties. In all but two states the party with the greatest number of votes receives all
the electoral votes for that state, even if no candidate gets a majority. Nebraska and Maine allow their
electoral votes to be split amoung candidates, but this has not actually happened in modern times
(The new version of the program
will reflect this). In order to win, a "ticket" (A party's Presidential and Vice-Presidential candidates) must receive
270 votes, one more than half of the total of 538 electoral votes. If no ticket has 270
votes, then the House of Representatives decides the election.
The electoral system forces candidates to carefully allocate their time and money among the states. Each candidate must devise a campaigning strategy which gives him or her the best chance to win at least 270 electoral votes. This page contains a Java applet which allows the user to experiment with different campaign strategies or to track the probable election outcome based on the user's estimate of state-by-state election outcomes.
To use the Electoral College calculator, select states by picking the state name on the list box, or clicking near the center of the state on the map. After a state is selected, press the radio button corresponding to the winning party. The calculator will display running totals and votes needed to win.