U.S. Presidential ElectionU.S. Presidential Election
Updated: Fri, 26 Oct 2012 20:15:00 GMT | By Tom Phillips
How America chooses a president

How do U.S. elections work?

How do U.S. elections work? (© Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images)
  • How do U.S. elections work? (© Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images)
  • The popular vote (© Adam Hunger/Reuters)
  • The electoral college (© Joshua Roberts/Reuters)
  • Winner takes all (© Getty Images)
  • Swing states (© Getty Images)
  • Path to the presidency (© Jim Young/Reuters)
  • Every vote counts? (© Marc Serota/Reuters)
  • The also-rans (© Lucy Nicholson/Reuters)
Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty ImagesShow Thumbnails
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On the surface, the system for electing U.S. presidents is fairly straightforward. Americans vote directly for the leader they want (rather than, as in some countries, voting for local representatives or parties in a parliament, who then elect their own leader). The American voters have only two major parties to choose from, so on Nov. 6 voters will be choosing either Barack Obama’s or Mitt Romney’s name on the ballot.  

But of course it’s not quite that simple ...

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