The Electoral college reference article from the English Wikipedia on 24-Jul-2004
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Electoral college

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An electoral college is a set of electors representing different organizations or entities, who are empowered to elect someone to a particular post. Each organization or entity may be represented by a particular number of electors, or the organization or entity's votes may be weighted in a particular way.

Some states with complex regional electorates choose to elect a head of state by means of an electoral college rather than a direct popular election. The United States is a noted case where, to avoid the dominance of urban and east coast based electorates at the expense of smaller communities, the President is elected by an electoral college, made up of electors representing the states; each state has a number of electors equivalent to its total Congressional representation (House of Representatives members from the state plus its two senators). See U.S. Electoral College for details. One side effect is that it is possible for a candidate to win more popular votes but have fewer electors elected to the Electoral College, meaning that the person with fewer popular votes gets elected to the presidency. This is rare but has occurred on four occasions in the United States, in the elections of 1824, 1876, 1888, and 2000.

Similar systems are used or have been used in other presidential elections around the world. For example, the President of Finland was elected by an electoral college between 1919 and 1987. The Holy Roman Emperor was also elected by an electoral college from the late Middle Ages until 1806. It consisted of German princes and archbishops, who were known as prince-electors.

Another type of electoral college is used by the British Labour Party to choose its leader. The college consists of three equally weighted sections: the votes of Labour MPss and MEPss; the votes of affiliated trade unions and socialist societies; and the votes of individual members of Constituency Labour Parties.