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How Americans Elect Their President

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How Americans Elect Their President

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The U.S. Presidential election is a multi-step process. A look at the distillation that Presidential hopefuls have to go through before contesting for the White House.

 

In about a month’s time both the American political parties – Democrats and Republicans, will officially announce their presidential nominee for the 2016 Presidential elections. July 18-21 are the convention dates for the Republican Party while Democrats will announce their candidate on July 23.

 

The Convention Day is a mere formality as the parties already have their presumptive nominees with both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton having acquired the required number of votes to become the official and unchallenged candidates. Though Clinton’s competition – Bernie Sanders has vowed to fight till the last hour on Convention Day.

 

The road to Convention Day is a long and complicated one despite the U.S. being a presidential-form of democracy.

 

Jeff Morris, State Representative (Democrat) from the state of Washington and Joyce Peppin a Republican House Majority leader from Minnesota  were visiting India recently and the election system was the topic of debate over a luncheon.

 

Morris first up says the American election system has numerous checks and balances included in the system to ensure a fair election.

Peppin follows this up with saying that the 2016 Presidential election is a race between two unpopular candidates. Trump is not liked by many Republican lawmakers while Clinton has not managed to rally the crowds around her. So out of the 35% + 35% vote that is split either way, the undecided 30% will decide this election.

American election flow chart

 

Click To See A Larger Image 

 

 Intention To Run

 

It all starts with a candidate announcing his/her intention to run for the office of the President of the United States.

 

In June last year, the Republican Party had 20 candidates who hoped to run for the office of the President. The Democratic Party had six candidates who took part in the nomination process.

 

This announcement is then followed by public meetings – to garner support and funding.

 

Both are equally important as the race to the White House starts well before a year of the actual voting day (First Tuesday of November) which is November 8(2016).

 

Creating and paying a team that will be with you till Washington DC, advertisements, travelling cross-country and holding public meetings requires a lot of money. The election race has reportedly already spent more than $ 1 billion. Hillary Clinton Has led the race in election spending with Donald Trump spending the least. However, Trump claims that he alone, will raise $1 billion before November 2016.

 

One of the reasons for Clinton amassing huge campaign funds is because she has the support of a large number of lawyers, bankers and democrats who hold various positions at the state and national level – as state representatives, senators and governors. Barack Obama himself endorsed her on June 9.

 

Donald Trump on the other hand has been a reluctant choice for most Republican party members and his fund-raising has largely come from small donations and self-funding.

 

Joyce Peppin, a Republican House Majority leader from Minnesota supported Marco Rubio as the party’s presidential candidate and leaders like Peppin hold sway on the ground support. She does not shy away from admitting that, ‘Rubio would have made a much better leader when it comes to policies but Trump’s history as a successful business tycoon stands for something.’

 

How Do Candidates Get Nominated

 

Candidates have to get a required number of delegates to become the Presidential nominee. So it’s an election to run for an election. The Republican Party candidates needs to collect 1,237 of 2,472 delegates while a Democrat candidate needs 2,383 of 4,765 delegates.

 

A candidate gets delegates through two ways – a primary and a caucus.

 

The primary system differs significantly from state to state. In a primary election, registered voters may participate in choosing the candidate for the party’s nomination by voting through secret ballot, as in a general election.

 

There are two main types of primaries, closed or open, that determine who is eligible to vote in the primary. In a closed primary a registered voter may vote only in the election for the party with which that voter is affiliated.

 

The main difference between a primary election and a caucus is who is running the show. State governments conduct primaries, but state parties are behind caucuses.

 

A caucus is a local meeting where registered members of a political party in a city, town or county gather to vote for their preferred party candidate. Caucuses typically are used in combination with a state convention to elect delegates to the national nominating convention for presidential elections.

 

Minnesota is an example where a strong network of support among party members helped Marco Rubio win the state caucus.

 

Sixteen states hold caucuses to determine political party candidates. Iowa holds the first, and most significant, caucus in the presidential election cycle.

 

The results of the primaries and caucuses therefore bind convention delegates to particular candidates. At the convention, there is a roll call vote that formally nominates a presidential candidate.

 

Who Are Delegates And How Does A Candidate Collect Them

 

Each party has two types of delegates, pledged and unpledged (non-binding). Pledged delegates are representatives of the individual state’s political parties and must cast a vote at the convention for a particular candidate, while unpledged can vote for any candidate.

 

Democratic Party: A pledged delegate is selected when voters cast their vote on a selected day and choose a candidate who will vote for their preferred candidate on Convention Day.

 

Republican Party: A bound delegate similarly has to vote for the pre-decided candidate during the national convention.

 

Super Delegate

 

In the Democratic Party, current and former Democratic Presidents and Vice Presidents, every Democratic governor (currently, 20 total) and member of Congress (240 total) gets to be a superdelegate, as do former Democratic Majority and Minority Leaders of the U.S. Senate, former Democratic Speakers and Minority Leaders of the U.S. House, and former Chairs of the Democratic National Committee. Altogether the Democrats have 704 superdelegates. These superdelegates are free to vote for whosoever they want.

 

For example, Washington state voted for Bernie Sanders in the Democratic Party primary but a large number of state legislators have endorsed Hillary Clinton for President.

 

In the Republican Party, the only people who get superdelegate status are the three members of each state’s national party. Superdelegates are only about 7% of the nominating vote. The more important distinction, though, is that Republican superdelegates do not have the freedom to vote for whichever candidate they please.

 

The Republican National Committee ruled in 2015 that their super-delegates must vote for the candidate that their state voted for, and that’s the biggest difference between Republican and Democratic superdelegates.

 

That means that if Donald Trump had won Minnesota, Joyce Peppin would have had to vote for Donald Trump.

 

Awarding the Delegates

 

The Democratic Party always uses a proportional method for awarding delegates. The percentage of delegates each candidate is awarded (or the number of undecided delegates) is representative of the mood of the caucus-goers or the number of primary votes for the candidate.

 

For example imagine a state with ten delegates and three candidates. If 60% of the people supported candidate X, 20% supported candidate Y, and 20% supported candidate Z, candidate X would receive six delegates and candidates Y and Z would each receive two delegates.

 

The Republican Party, unlike the Democratic Party, allows each state to decide whether to use the winner-take-all method or the proportional method. In the winner-take-all method the candidate whom the majority of caucus participants or voters support receives all the delegates for the state.

 

The National Election

 

During the general election, Americans head to the polls to cast their vote for President. But the tally of those votes—the popular vote—does not determine the winner. Instead, Presidential elections use the Electoral College. To win the election, a candidate must receive a majority of electoral votes. So Americans also vote for who will vote for their candidate during hte electoral college.

 

The Electoral College process consists of the selection of the electors, the meeting of the electors where they vote for President and Vice President, and the counting of the electoral votes by Congress.

 

The Electoral College consists of 538 electors. A majority of 270 electoral votes is required to elect the President of the United States.

 

It is possible for a candidate to receive the majority of the popular vote, but not of the electoral vote, and lose the Presidential election. And this is where Donald Trump could possibly lose the game with states voting Democrat at the national level if he does not transition to a ‘statesman’ that the Republicans are hoping for.

 

 

 

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