US presidential election process explained

US presidential election process explained

Once every four years, the people of the United States decide who their next president should be. But for non-U.S. citizens, the election process can be confusing.

Here’s a breakdown of what really happens.

Two parties, many candidates

America’s two main political parties, the Democratic Party and the Republican Party, first choose their respective nominees through party-sponsored contests in each of the states and U.S. territories. This process starts in February and takes up to five months. But campaigning can begin well over a year in advance of the general election, which will take place this year Nov. 8.

Iowa and New Hampshire are the first two states to have caucuses or primaries.

“Super Tuesday”

Thirteen states and territories will hold caucuses or primaries on the first Tuesday of March. This day is known in the U.S. as “Super Tuesday,” due to the fact that many caucuses or primaries take place on that same day, the course of the race.

Caucusing is the oldest method of choosing delegates. Registered members of a political party in a town, city or county gather to elect delegates to be put forward for presidential elections. Although once more common, caucuses these days only take place in a few states, notably Iowa, Nevada and Alaska.

Primaries are conducted in 34 U.S. states, where voters cast their ballot.

Once the primaries and caucuses are done, the delegates move on to the national conventions, which take place a week apart in July, to choose the next U.S. president.

Key dates for this year

Feb. 1: The first votes cast at the Iowa caucuses

July 18–21: Republican convention in Cleveland, Ohio to elect the party’s nominee for president

July 25–28: Democratic convention in Philadelphia to elect the party’s nominee for president

Nov. 8: General election held to vote for one of the two candidates

The catch is that, in the general election, citizens would be actually voting for a group of people known as electors, through which a president is elected. Each state gets a number of electors according to its representation in Congress. Then, each elector casts one vote and the nominee who gets more than half of the votes becomes president.

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