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US Election 2016: How Does the US Presidential Election Work?

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In January 2017, after a drawn out and expensive campaign, the United States will have a new leader. US presidential elections mean that citizens are not only choosing a head of state, but also a head of government and a commander-in-chief of the largest military on the planet. So how does the US Presidential election work?

Who Can Be President?

Technically, to run for president, you only need to be “a natural born” US citizen, at least 35 year old and have been a resident for fourteen years. However in reality, every president since 1933 has been a governor, senator or a five-star military general. During the 2016 election period, at one point there were ten governors or former governors and ten who are or were senators. One person is nominated to represent the Republican and Democratic parties in the presidential election.

Who Gets to be the Presidential Pick for Each Party?

Beginning in February of the year of the election, a series of elections are held in every state and overseas territory. These elections determine who becomes each party’s official presidential candidate. The winner of each election collects a number of “delegates,” which are party members who have the power to vote for that candidate at the party conventions that are held in July, where candidates are formally confirmed. The more state contests a candidate winds, the more delegates will be pledged to support them at the convention.

This year, Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump were the clear winners and were officially nominated at their party’s conventions in July. They also officially unveiled their vice-president picks – Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia for Mrs Clinton and Indiana Governor Mike Pence for the Republicans.

Key Dates Between Now and Election

While the election campaign feels long, in reality it has only begun. Once the candidates have been confirmed at the party conventions in July, the real campaign begins, with each candidate travelling across the country to make their case.

In the last six weeks before the November election, there are three televised presidential debates:

The election will take place on Tuesday, 8 November.

How does the Vote in November Work?

The candidate with the most votes in each state becomes the candidate which that stat supports for president. It all comes down to a system known as the electoral college, which is a group of people who choose the winner – 538 of them. However just half of that number – 270 – is needed in order to make a president. Furthermore, not all states are equal. For example, California has more than ten times the population of Connecticut and therefore they do not get an equal say. Each state has a certain number of these “electors,” based on their population in the most recent census. That number is the same number of districts in a state, plus two senators. When citizens vote for their preferred candidate, they are actually voting for the electors, some of which are pledged to one candidate, and some for another. In almost every state, with the exception of Nebraska and Maine, the winner takes all. Therefore the person who wins the most electors in New York, for example, will get all 29 of New York’s electoral votes. As a result, the swing states are often the ones that matter most.

What are Swing States?

Some states are known as “swing states,” which means that they could go either way. Florida in particular, with 29 votes, famously decided during the 2000 election in favor of Republican George W. Bush, who lost the popular vote nationally but, after a Supreme Court case, won the electoral college. Other swing states include: Colorado, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio and Virginia.

When Does the new President Begin Work?

In the days and weeks after the election the victor will assemble a cabinet and will begin crafting a more thorough police agenda. Under the US constitution, the president is inaugurated on 20 January of the year following the election.

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