Most elections in the U.S. select one person; elections with multiple candidates selected by proportional representation are relatively rare. Typical examples include the U.S. House of Representatives, whose members are elected by a plurality of votes in single-member districts. The number of representatives from each state is set in proportion to each state's population in the most recent decennial census. District boundaries are usually redrawn after each such census. This process often produces "gerrymandered" district boundaries designed to increase and secure the majority of the party in power, sometimes by offering secure seats to members of the opposition party. This is one of a number of institutional features that increase the advantage of incumbents seeking reelection. The United States Senate and the U.S. President are also elected by plurality. However, these elections are not affected by gerrymandering (with the possible exception of presidential races in Maine and Nebraska, whose electoral votes are partially allocated by Congressional district.)
Proposals for electoral reform have included overturning Citizens United, public and citizen funding of elections, limits and transparency in funding, Instant Runoff Voting (IRV), public or citizen funding of news, a new national holiday called "Deliberation Day" to support voters spending a full day in structured discussions of issues and candidates, abolishing the U.S. Electoral College or nullifying its impact through the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact, and improving ballot access for third parties, among others. The U.S. Constitution gives states wide latitude to determine how elections are conducted, although some details, such as the ban on poll taxes, are mandated at the federal level.
The cost of getting elected, especially to any national office in the US, has been growing. The Federal Elections Commission estimated that "candidates, parties, PACs, super-PACs, and politically active nonprofits" spent a total of $7 billion in 2012. The liberal magazine Mother Jones said that this money was used "to influence races up and down the ballot", noting further that the cost of elections has continued to escalate. The 2010 congressional elections cost roughly $4 billion.
Spending averages just under $3 billion per year for the 4-year presidential election cycle.
This is small relative to what the major campaign contributors, crony capitalists (whether allegedly "liberal" or "conservative"), receive for their money. The Cato Institute found corporate welfare totaling $100 billion in the 2012 U.S. federal budget. This includes only direct subsidies specifically identified in the Cato Institute research. It does not include indirect subsidies like tax breaks, trade barriers, distorting copyright law beyond the "limited time" and other restrictions mentioned in the U.S. Constitution, and other distortions of U.S. foreign and defense policies to benefit major corporations and people with substantial financial interests outside the U.S.
Other studies have estimated between $6 and $220 return for each $1 "invested" by major corporations and ultra-wealthy individuals in lobbying and political campaigns.
This rate of return helps escalate the cost of elections. To obtain the money needed for their next election campaign, incumbent politicians spend a substantial portion of their time soliciting money from large donors, who often donate to competing candidates, thereby "buying" access with the one that wins.