The US elec­tion: A how-to guide

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

The Amer­i­can pres­i­den­tial elec­tion falls this year on Novem­ber 8. The qua­dren­nial ex­er­cise al­ways takes place on the Tues­day fol­low­ing the first Mon­day in Novem­ber, as spelled out in the US Con­sti­tu­tion. Here is a primer on the US elec­tion sys­tem:

How the vot­ing sys­tem works

The vote, by uni­ver­sal suf­frage, is con­ducted in a sin­gle round in all 50 states and the Dis­trict of Columbia (the city of Wash­ing­ton, which is not part of any state). Vot­ers choose among the can­di­dates for pres­i­dent and vice pres­i­dent. The pop­u­lar vote in each state de­ter­mines the se­lec­tion of a set of mem­bers of the elec­toral col­lege, who pledge to sup­port a given can­di­date.

The elec­toral col­lege

There are 538 mem­bers of the elec­toral col­lege, with the num­ber from each state based on its pop­u­la­tion size. A state has one elec­tor for each of its mem­bers of the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives, and one for each of the state’s two sen­a­tors. Cal­i­for­nia-the most pop­u­lous state-there­fore has 55 elec­tors, Texas has 38, and New York and Florida have 29 each. At the other end of the spec­trum, lightly pop­u­lated Alaska, Delaware, Ver­mont and Wy­oming have only three elec­tors each, as does the Dis­trict of Columbia. Mem­bers of the elec­toral col­lege of­fi­cially elect the pres­i­dent and vice pres­i­dent on De­cem­ber 19 in what is a mere for­mal­ity.

What does it take to win?

The suc­cess­ful can­di­date must amass 270 elec­toral votes, an ab­so­lute ma­jor­ity of the 538 elec­tors. In all but two states, the can­di­date who car­ries the ma­jor­ity of the pop­u­lar vote wins the sup­port of all the state’s elec­tors. Ne­braska and Maine use a split sys­tem, in which two elec­tors are cho­sen by pop­u­lar state-wide vote and the re­main­der are cho­sen ac­cord­ing to the pop­u­lar vote in each con­gres­sional dis­trict. The win­ner-takes-all sys­tem in the states makes it ex­tremely hard for a third-party can­di­date to pre­vail, although they can still have crit­i­cal im­pacts on cer­tain states and there­fore on the na­tional re­sult.

Swing states

Some states his­tor­i­cally sup­port the Demo­cratic can­di­date elec­tion af­ter elec­tion, while oth­ers are just as res­o­lutely Repub­li­can. Can­di­dates thus con­cen­trate their ef­forts on about a dozen states prone to shift back and forth be­tween the par­ties, of­ten de­ter­min­ing the fi­nal re­sult. The most im­por­tant of these are the “bat­tle­ground” or “swing” states with the largest num­ber of elec­tors, like Florida (29), Penn­syl­va­nia (20) and Ohio (18).

Else­where on the bal­lot

Amer­i­cans on Novem­ber 8 will also be vot­ing for ev­ery one of the 435 mem­bers of the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives (who serve two-year terms) and for 34 of the 100 sen­a­tors (who serve for six years). They also will be choos­ing gov­er­nors in 12 states, and will be cast­ing votes in a mul­ti­tude of ref­er­enda and lo­cal elec­tions.


FLORIDA: US Pres­i­dent Barack Obama holds up a baby af­ter speak­ing in Kis­sim­mee, Florida as he cam­paigns for Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee Hillary Clin­ton dur­ing a Hillary for Amer­ica cam­paign event.

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