The process to elect a pope is different from any other election process in the world. Here is one piece of the process:
“The conclave to elect the successor of Benedict XVI will be regulated by the 'Ordo Rituum Conclavis' established by John Paul II's apostolic constitution 'Universi Dominici Gregis', para. 27. The Cardinal Camerlengo, who has a fundamental role during the Sede Vacante period, is Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, appointed by Benedict XVI on 4 April 2007.
“The Cardinal electors, by their continents of provenance, will be 61 Europeans, 19 Latin Americans, 14 North Americans, 11 Africans, 11 Asians, and 1 from Oceania. These figures may vary depending on the date that the conclave opens: for example, Cardinal Walter Kasper will turn 80 on 5 March. The country with the greatest number of Cardinal electors is Italy, with 21. Sixty-seven of the electors were created by Benedict XVI and the remaining 50 by John Paul II.
“One of John Paul II's innovations regarding the period of conclave is that the Cardinal electors,of whom there will be 117 on 28 February, will be housed in the Vatican residence Casa Santa Marta, which is independent from the place where they vote, the Sistine Chapel.
“The Cardinal electors must remain in the Vatican during the entire period of conclave, and no one can approach them when they move from the Sistine Chapel to their place of residence or vice versa. All forms of communication with the outside world are prohibited. As in the past, the Sistine Chapel stove will be used to burn the ballots after each vote.”
The cardinals vote four times each day and a 2/3 +1 majority is needed to elect a winner. If a stalemate is reached, a simple majority yields the winner.
Source: Vatican Information Service (VIS)
(Photo: S-R archives; Cardinals participate in a ceremony during the 7th Concistory held in the Sistine Chapel in 1978, prior to the election of Pope John Paul II)