In each state, whichever party garners a majority of popular votes, regardless of how narrow the margin, wins all the electoral votes. By forcing residents in each state ultimately to vote as a block, the system is supposed to ensure that small states' interests are not drowned out by those of larger states.
In all, there are 538 electoral votes and the number given to each state reflects the sum of the representatives and senators it sends to Congress. It takes 270 or more Electoral College votes to win the election.The biggest states California (55), New York (31), Texas (34), Pennsylvania (21) have the most impact on the result of the presidential election.
Usually, the result is nearly the same as it would have been if the election were direct. Yet the system has produced presidents who received a minority of the popular vote but a majority of the electoral votes. NOTE: In the elections of Harry S Truman, Woodrow Wilson and Abraham Lincoln, there were more than two candidates and each of the elected Presidents won more popular votes than any of their respective opponents.
President Bill Clinton was also elected in 1992 with only 43 percent of the popular vote, but 370 electoral votes. In his case there was also more than two candidates.
Several times in recent electoral college history, a relatively small shift in voter preference in key states could have reversed election outcomes.
In prior elections, four U.S candidate for President won the popular vote but lost the presidency: Andrew Jackson won the popular vote but lost the election to John Quincy Adams in 1824; Samuel J. Tilden won the popular vote but lost the election to Rutherford B. Hayes in 1876; Grover Cleveland won the popular vote but lost the election to Benjamin Harrison in 1888, and Al Gore won the popular vote but lost the election to George W. Bush in 2000.