Elections are the lifeblood of a democracy. The word democracy literally means "the people rule," an important concept in America's history.
An effective democracy holds regular elections. In America, elections are held every two years for members of Congress. In these elections, all seats in the House of Representatives and one-third of the Senate seats are up for grabs.
In addition, every four years, voters go to the polls to elect the nation's president and vice-president. Voters also regularly cast their ballots for state and city government leaders and local school board members. Sometimes they also have to vote on a proposed law.
In the American electoral system, people don't really vote for presidential candidates. Instead, voters cast their ballots for "electors" who support each candidate. Each state has as many electors as the total number of its representatives in Congress. This equals two senators per state plus the number of its representatives in the House (which is based on the state's population).
The candidate who has the most votes in a state wins all of the state's electors. To win the presidential election, a candidate must gain at least 270 of the 538 total electoral votes.