America votes, India watches
How America Elects Its President
Unlike in many other countries, the US president and vice president are not directly elected by citizens. Instead, they are chosen by "electors" through an "Electoral College". In this system, it is possible for a candidate to win the popular vote and still lose out on the presidency.
To serve as president, one must be a natural born citizen of the United States, a resident for 14 years, and 35 years of age or older.
The Presidency is limited to two four-year terms after the 22nd Amendment to the Constitution, ratified in 1951. Before that, a President could serve an unlimited number of terms. For example, Franklin Roosevelt was elected four times and served from 1932 to 1945.
Campaigning is expensive business. The main reason it costs so much is because it lasts so long. There's also no limit on how much a candidate can spend. Costs can run up to even $1 billion — and that's not even counting outside spending.
The Democratic Party and the Republican Party dominate modern politics in the United States. Every United States presidential election has been won by either of these two parties since 1852. They have also controlled the United States Congress to some extent since at least since 1856.
Red for Republicans and blue for Democrats was not standard until the election of 2000, when NYT & USA Today published their first full-colour election maps with that colour scheme. In fact, NBC’s first ever election map on air in 1976 had bulbs that turned red for Democrat-won states and blue for Republican, based on Britain’s colour scheme where red denoted liberal parties.
States have two ways of collecting votes when choosing a presidential candidate — primaries and caucuses.A primary is what most people usually think of when they imagine voting — people showing up at a polling place to vote for their candidate by ballot.A caucus is different. It's an event that requires hours of active communal participation and debate.
In the event of a tie in the selection of the president, the vice president-elect serves as acting president until the deadlock is resolved. In other words, the House has to keep voting until the tie is broken.
According to the Congressional Research Service, “under the Twentieth Amendment, the incumbent President’s term ends at noon on January 20th. There are no provisions of law permitting a President to stay in office after this date, even in the event of a national emergency, short of the ratification of a new constitutional amendment.”
Eligible US voters on election day don’t pick the President directly. They are voting for 538 electors instead, who meet in their respective states and vote for President and Vice President. The number is 538 as there are 100 senators (2 per state) and 438 representatives (distributed by population). These electors comprise the Electoral College.
Large states, which have an electorate split relatively evenly between Democrats and Republicans, are called a Swing state. The outcome of voting in these states is difficult to predict.Swing states are also called battleground states or purple states. Traditional battleground states include Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania.
Democratic vice president candidate Kamala Harris, being half-Indian, has triggered a debate on India and Indian Americans’ influence in the US general elections. Elections in the world's most powerful country have a huge bearing on global economies, but previously India was never much of a subject of political focus. This time around, with the US general election being only a short while away, India seems to be a major theme.
The US election day is November 3rd, with electoral college members meeting on December 14th to formally vote for the President and Vice President. The votes will be counted on January 6th, 2021 where the Senate will announce the election results. The elected President and Vice President will take the oath of office on January 20th.
The newly elected, or re-elected, President takes oath on Inauguration Day - January 20.
Know Your Candidate
Learn more about the presidential contenders.
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