The 2016 US election takes place on Tuesday Nov 8 2016, after which the world’s most powerful nation will have a new leader. Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump will become the 45th President of the United States.
Once in every four years, the new President of the United States of America is sworn into office. The process of electing the President is long drawn and starts in the spring of the year before the election. It begins with candidates announcing their intention to contest in the elections. The candidates must fulfill the constitutional requirements to contest the elections. Here’s a summary of how it all begins and ends.
Primaries and caucuses are an important part of the election process as people can influence the process by choosing the prime candidate for the political party to represent in the general elections. The local and state governments organize primary elections where the citizens vote for the candidates. The political parties themselves organize Caucuses where potential candidates are informally voted for, after debates and discussions amongst party members.
There are four types of primaries and caucuses.
Open primaries or caucuses: Registered voters can vote for any candidate and need not be affiliated with any party.
Closed primaries or caucuses: Registered voters need to be registered with the specific party to vote for their candidates.
Semi-open primaries and caucuses: Any registered voter can vote in any party contest, but when they identify themselves to election officials they must request a party’s specific ballot and vote for the candidate from that specific party.
Semi-closed primaries and caucuses: It is similar to closed ones, but they also allow voters who are not affiliated with a political party to vote.
Candidates campaign by putting forward their ideas and policies, which garners them votes as well as confidence in them from their political party. Each party has many delegates and people can vote for them.
The political parties hold a convention to decide who should be the presidential candidate representing them in the general elections. The presidential candidate is usually the one who has garnered majority votes in the primaries and caucuses.
The two main political parties are the Democratic and Republican parties. In 2016, a Democratic candidate had to receive 2,383 of the 4,765 delegates to become the party’s presidential nominee. Democratic candidates must win at least 15 per cent of the votes earned in a primary or caucus to receive any pledged delegates (Delegates who are bound to support the candidate allocated to them in the National convention of the party). This is decided on a proportional basis.
The 2016 Republican candidate had to receive 1,237 of the estimated 2,472 delegates to win the party’s nomination. The percentage of primary or caucus votes a candidate must win to receive delegates supporting them varies from state to state.
Apart from pledged delegates who support their party presidential candidate, there are unpledged delegates or Superdelegates. These delegates are not bound to a specific candidate. They are free to choose a candidate of their liking.
Since the 1970s, the importance of these conventions has fallen since they simply ratify the results of the primaries and caucuses. But they are still important in portraying the political parties as well as the presidential and vice presidential candidates.
If no candidate receives majority in the convention then pledged delegates vote in the first round with many other rounds until a candidate receives a majority.
The presidential nominees of the parties travel around the country debating, discussing and sharing their views and policies to gain the confidence of the citizens. The process involves a number of presidential debates between the candidates on various issues and concerns that need to be addressed. These debates provide a good platform for the candidates, and also gives the voters a snippet of what they can expect from each candidate.
This is followed by the general elections to nominate the President, which happens through a process of Electoral College. The people do not directly vote for the President but instead vote for electors who in turn vote for the president. The Electoral College constitutes a two-part process. The first part of the process is controlled by the political parties in each state and varies from state to state. The parties either nominate slates of potential Electors at the state party conventions or they are chosen based on the votes of the party’s Central committee.At the end of the first part of the process, each presidential candidate will have a set of potential electors in every state.
The second part of the process is on Election Day, when the citizens vote for their choice of the presidential candidate, which really means they are voting to select the elector. Once the voting is complete, the counting begins. The electors who have the majority votes form the Electoral College. The Electoral College consists of 538 electors. A majority of 270 electoral votes is required to elect the President. Although the actual vote of the Electoral College takes place between mid-November and mid-December in every state, in most cases, a projected winner can be announced on election night. If there is no majority, then the House of Representatives will vote to elect the president from the top three candidates.