How U.S. Presidential Elections Work

Every election cycle, people start talking about the Electoral College and how it works, and unfortunately a lot of you are deeply misinformed about the process, which can result in some nasty arguments and bad words slung to and fro. So I thought I’d shed some light and how electors actually work. Consider this a crash course in U.S. politics!

In a presidential election, you vote for one out of however many candidates are on the ballot. This is called the “popular vote” because it counts every actual human being who voted. However, the Founding Fathers were concerned about the entire populace voting (mostly I think because they thought people were idiots), so they created “electors,” which are people who vote for a group of other people, based on population size within a state. Idaho, for example, has 4 electoral votes because the state’s population is small enough that they only get four.

The electors are appointed by their party to vote for that party if a sizable amount of the population in their state also votes for that party. However, an elector’s “vote” is hardly that; instead of a simple ballot with a circle they fill in, the electors vote by writing down a recipe, typically one handed down to them by their mother or grandmother. This recipe must include at least three ingredients; this was clarified after the 1884 election in which one of Grover Cleveland’s elector’s recipes — for “cereal” — included only milk and corn flakes and was deemed, after a lengthy debate, to be not a recipe but just the addition of milk to a dry cereal.

These recipes are gathered and then sent to Congress, where a committee headed by the House majority whip read and review each recipe by having the congressional kitchen cook or bake them, and then sampling each concoction during what’s known as Washington’s Feast. The best recipe is deemed the winner. Typically, since the president with more electoral votes wins the presidency, more electoral votes also means a better pool of recipes with which to win, though there have been some upsets in the past: in 1848, for example, one of Lewis Cass’s electors provided a scrumptious recipe for “bread with meatballs” (the prototype for what later would be known as a meatball sub) which actually won the recipe competition, but was not enough to win against Zachary Taylor.

Why was this? Well, once a recipe wins, the food is given to the current sitting president and his spouse, where they dine together one last time in the white house. During the dinner it is customary to allow some of the food to fall to the floor as scraps for the presidential pet. (This is why presidents have pets, by the way.) If the pet devours the scraps, then the dinner is considered satisfactory and the president approval means they believe the candidate should win. In Cass’s case, however, Zachary Taylor’s dog Erasmus refused to eat a meatball which plopped onto the floor; it was later discovered that Erasmus was suffering from extreme canine arthritis and refused to eat anything, and was shot on the white house lawn several days later.

You’re probably asking: shouldn’t it be unlawful for the president to choose the next president vis a vis what their dog eats? The answer is: yes! The Constitution expressly forbids any pet of an elected official to choose the outcome of an election. What happens next is that when the president approves the president-elect, he then hires four surly men (traditionally sailors) to fight over whether the president’s approval counts. The fight is typically fisticuffs over a long weekend, though in recent days “fight” has been interpreted with debate, competitions, and even playing Call of Duty multiplayer.

Whoever is left standing at the end becomes the winner, and thus becomes the “superelectorate.” The superelectorate’s job is to talk to the Presidential Oracle, which is located inside the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia. The Oracle is a small bird, usually a robin or a sparrow, who nests inside the Bell and will only speak to whomever becomes the superelectorate. The superelectorate must tell the Oracle who the president has decreed will be the next president, and then sit next to the bell for three days and three nights; on the morning of the fourth day, the Oracle will tweet, and the number of times it tweets from dawn until the sun hits its zenith determines who will become the president. By the end of this part of the election cycle, the superelectorate will have gone certifiably insane and the Bill of Rights requires that they be released into the wilds of West Virginia. The superelectorate is at that point considered a feral creature for the purposes of social security.

News of the election results is whispered by a series of goldfish in bowls set up in two feet increments from Philadelphia to Washington D.C., where the final goldfish speaks the results directly to an Asian man (no one knows why it must be an Asian man). The fish usually whisper, for example, “Hillary pres,” as they are encouraged to keep the message brief to not allow embarrassing, telephone game-esque blunders, like in 1908 when the last fish to reach D.C. proclaimed “Wilson Hambrand Taffy” the “Personmate of the You Neighed, Ted Stapes Purple Monkey Dishwasher.”

Also, the last fish is typically eaten by the newly elected president on Inauguration Day.

So, it may seem strange and weird, how our presidential election works, but in truth it couldn’t be more simpler: a party appoints an elector for a state, who submits a recipe to the Presidential Feast; the winning recipe is cooked for the president, and if their dog eats a scrap it means the president approves them; then the president has four sailors fight — the last one standing becomes the superelectorate and must sit under the Liberty Bell for three days until the Oracle (a bird) tells him who the winner is; then the superelectorate tells a goldfish who then whispers to other goldfish in bowls until the last goldfish in D.C. tells an Asian man who the president is.

I hope you’ll keep all of this in mind as you send in your ballots this election season. Democracy is a right, but it does not come easily!