It’s unnatural to talk and conclude about the election process in America without first getting an idea of how the actual process takes place. Just like every democracy in the world, the U.S. elections are decided by a ballot where all adult citizens of the country partake in by exercising their vote. Now, let’s understand how the elections are held across the country.
The Presidential Elections in the United States takes place every four years in the month of November. The Presidential Candidate must be at least 35 years in age, a born citizen of the U.S., and must have resided in the country for at least 14 years to be able to contest in the election.
The Election Process of the U.S. President Explained
The President and Vice President of the U.S. are not directly elected by the general public. Instead, they are elected by “electors” through the “Electoral College” Process.
The entire election process of the U.S. President can be divided into the following five steps:
Step 1: Primaries and Caucuses
Voters at the 2008 Washington State Democratic caucus
Primaries and Caucuses are the methods employed by the political parties in order to choose their candidates for the general election. The election process begins in the month of January or February. Primaries are organized at the state level and the party members usually vote for their presidential candidates through a secret ballot. The Primary elections are carried out in 34 U.S States.
Caucuses are local meetings that are organized by the political parties. The members of the political party then vote for their preferred candidate. A caucus serves as a substitute for the primary election for selecting the delegates. Caucuses are held in 16 U.S States for determining the candidates of the political party.
Step 2: National Conventions of Each Party
This is held during the summer of the election year. In this convention, the delegates’ vote will determine the presidential candidate for each party. The National Convention usually marks the start of the election process.
Step 3: General Election Campaigning
The General Election Campaigning starts once a nominee is selected from all the political parties. After the selection of the nominee, the presidential candidates travel around the country for campaigning. They take part in rallies and explain their ideas and views to the public. The objective of the campaign is to gain the support of the voters. Advertising, rallies, as well as debates, are all part of the election campaigning.
Step 4: General Election (Popular Vote)
The General Election usually takes place in November. Each and every person across all the states will vote for one president and vice-president. When the public cast their votes, they, in turn, are voting for a group of fellow Americans known as Electors.
The voters of each state as well as the District of Columbia vote for electors. In the presidential election, theses electors become authorized constitutional members. These voters in turn form the Electoral College. In order to win the election, a presidential candidate must secure more than 270 electoral votes.
Step 5: Electoral College
The President of the United States is elected by the institution named the Electoral College. Each state has a pre-determined number of electors depending on its total representation present in the Congress. The 50 states of the U.S. along with Washington, D.C. have a set number of electors depending on their size. As California is the most populated, it has the highest electoral votes at 55. Similarly, Montana due to its low population has only 3 electoral votes.
Apart from Maine and Nebraska, if the candidate receives the majority of the votes within a state, then he or she will receive the full quota of Electoral College votes of that particular state. Each elector can cast only one electoral vote post the general election. There are 538 electoral votes in total. The presidential candidate who secures more than 270 votes wins the election.
Is the Election Process Fair?
- As per the last NPR/Marist poll held in late 2018, 2 out of 5 voters in America are of the opinion that the election process in the U.S. is not fair.
- Around 50% of the respondents do not have any faith with respect to the vote being counted accurately.
- Race and gender are the factors which question the democratic system of the U.S.
- Democrats, Non-white voters, as well as women have substantially higher doubts with respect to the fairness of elections.
According to the same NPR/Marist poll, the citizens were asked the percentage of the votes which they think will not be counted for the mid-term elections of this election year. Nearly 47% of the poll respondents believed that not all of the votes will be counted in November.
In addition, around 60% of non-white voters have a strong opinion that there will be some incorrect tabulation. On a general basis, around 47% of the U.S. women have said that they have very little trust in the fairness of the election process. Around one-third of the men also had the same opinion.
The OSCE mission was started in the U.S. in 2002. It was initiated due to the “serious shortcomings” observed during the presidential election of 2000. During that election, nearly tens of thousands of black voters were not allowed to vote and were excluded from electoral rolls in Florida.
The major problem is that the United States is troubled by uncontrolled voter suppression as well as partisan election officials. This, in turn, makes the election process to be a bit unfair.
The final report of the OSCE during the 2016 presidential election issued the following list of recommendations to the U.S. officials:
- The state must strongly consider meeting the requirements of vote equality. The States must also consider setting up independent redistricting commissions to draw district boundaries which are free from political intervention.
- At the county as well as the state level, the election officials must be relieved of their duties if they are participating as candidates in the elections.
- Any restrictions on the voting rights for individuals having criminal convictions must be reviewed for ensuring proportionate limitations.
- Authorities must take steps to decrease the strength of unregistered voters while addressing obstacles and procedures which are commonly faced by certain sections of the U.S population.
- States must avoid introducing the requirements of voter identification which can lead to a discriminatory impact on the voters.
As every democratic nation has its own set of problems related to the election process, the U.S. is no different. The state representatives must look at the obvious fallacies that they are entrenched in the voting process and look at making fundamental changes. However, what goes hand-in-hand is that the public must take care to partake wholly in the election process and exercise their rights by making well-informed decisions.