You’d have to be living under a rock not to notice that a Presidential Election is soon to be taking place in the United States. An election to choose one of the most powerful people on the planet takes place in the United States every four years. Election Day – when the nation goes to the polls – is always held on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November. This year it’s November 8 2016. Put the date in your diary, and find out all you need to know about the election right here.
The US Election Process in Brief
The election is a general election, where Americans cast a vote for their President. But it is not enough for a candidate to simply get more votes than anyone else. The election is based on an Electoral College system.
The US election process is relatively long-winded. In the spring before the election is due to take place the candidates declare that they are going to run for President. In the summer through to the spring of the election year the primary and caucus debates happen. These allow the different states in the US to choose the nominees for the political parties.
In July through to September the main parties hold conferences in order to pick their candidates. Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump were officially nominated at the conventions in July 2016. They picked their vice president choices – Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia for Clinton, and Indiana Governor Mike Pence for Trump.
In September and October these candidates take part in live Presidential debates. The candidates travel all through the country making their views known and explaining their policies and stances. In early November it is Election Day – here is how to vote in the US election.
Who Can Be President?
The U.S. Constitutional requirements for Presidential candidates state simply that the President must be “a natural-born citizen of the United States,” “at least 35 years old”, and must have been “a resident of the United States for 14 years.”
In theory, anyone who meets these requirements can stand for Presidency.
But in reality, almost every President in history has been a senator, a governor, or a military general beforehand – and has had the long-standing support of a major party.
What Happens Next in the US Election?
From now on, it’s a rapid race towards the polls for the candidates. There is one more live televised debate to take place as Americans decide how to vote in the US election, and then the nation heads to the secret ballot on Tuesday November 8.
After the polls close, the candidate that wins the most votes in a state is the candidate which that state puts forward for President. But it is not quite as simple as that. The election is decided through a process called the Electoral College. This means that the President is chosen by “electors”. As states are different in terms of population, they have more or less impact. The number of electors in a state is calculated by the number of members the state has in the Congress. This means there are a total of 538 electors in all, and they are chosen by the political parties.
The candidate who gets the most votes in a state gets all the state’s electoral votes. Therefore his or her party will vote in the Electoral College. In order to be President, the candidate needs the vote of at least 270 electors. This is more than half of the total number.
In most cases, the projected winner of the election can be announced on the election night itself.
What Happens If No One Gets 270 Votes?
It is rare for this to happen, but if no one candidate gets the required 270 votes it will go to the House of Representatives to decide who the new President will be.
It is possible to get the 270 electoral votes but not win the majority of votes across the country – this is uncommon but it has happened four times previously in the US, the most recent being 2000.
The US president is inaugurated on January 20 of the year immediately after the election – this time it will be January 20 2017.