On November 04, 2008 no one in the United States electorate will vote for either McCain or Obama.
The new president finds his way to the White House thanks to the Electoral College, not the unwashed voting masses. The plebs, the ordinary Americans, only vote for electors.
The American Electoral College
There are six steps to America's Electoral College picking a president by proxy:
One: Each state gets a number of electors equal to its number of U.S. representatives (which is proportional to its population), plus its number of U.S. senators (which is two).
Two: Before the popular election, the candidates supply election officials in each state with lists of people pledged to support them. These people are, in effect, candidates for the Electoral College.
Three: On election day, voters cast ballots for the slate of electors in their state that has pledged to support their preferred presidential candidate.
Four: The slate of electors that gets the most votes in a particular state wins all of that state's Electoral College spots, except in Maine and Nebraska, where two electors are chosen by statewide vote and tallies within congressional districts decide the rest.
Five: On the Monday after the second Wednesday in December, the selected electors meet in their state capitals and cast votes for the president and vice president. At least one of their votes must be for a candidate not from their home state (one reason the two candidates on party tickets never call the same state home). Then they ship their ballots off to the president of the U.S. Senate.
Six: On January 6, the president of the Senate reads the Electoral College votes before both houses of Congress. As long as one candidate receives an absolute majority of the votes (that's half the total, plus one or more), that candidate is declared president. If no candidate receives an absolute majority, the U.S. House of Representatives chooses the president from the top three contenders.
Why is it so?
The Electoral College was born during the final days of America's Constitutional Convention, when the country's creators alighted on a presidential selection process that neatly negotiated some of the thorniest issues they faced at that time.
The framers had to balance the concerns of small states against those of larger ones. And a direct popular vote would have favored the big states like Virginia over those of small states like Connecticut.
Also, national campaigns would have been extremely difficult in 1787. The country simply didn't have means of transportation and communication to support political campaigns in the way we know them today. Besides, the founders didn't like the idea of campaigning in any case, believing that "the office should seek the man," not vice versa. Some - believe it or not - even doubted the average voter's ability to make a smart choice.
The Collegiate Solution
The Electoral College was a compromise.
To address big-state versus small-state issues, the framers built on their previous compromise regarding the design of Congress, giving each state a number of electors equal to its number of representatives plus its number of senators.
To hedge against home-state favoritism, they ruled that one vote per elector had to go to an out-of-state candidate.
To maintain a balance of power between federal and state governments, they allowed the states to determine for themselves how to choose their electors.
The founders never imagined how the system would develop, especially after the emergence of political parties. They had hoped an Electoral College, consisting of each state's best and brightest, would simply convene and choose the best man for the job, with no need for anything as degrading as political campaigning.
Truly, that's what they thought!
Now if that's not worth a snirtle, a sniggle, a smirk and s snort, nothing is!