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The U.S. Electoral Process
Transcript of The U.S. Electoral Process
Free and fair elections are the cornerstone of democracy.
The American system can appear complicated, but it ensures that voters have a voice at all levels of government.
Today, the U.S. Constitution guarantees that all U.S. citizens over the age of 18 can vote in federal (national), state and local elections.
Which public officials are elected?
Each of the 50 states has its own constitution and its own rules for state offices.
What about the U.S. Congress?
The U.S. Congress consists of the House of Representatives and the Senate.
Why does the United States have only two major political parties?
Why aren’t there more small parties?
In the U.S. system, a party can win a seat only if its candidate gets the most votes. That makes it difficult for small political parties to win elections.
What about Americans who don’t belong to the Democratic or Republican Party?
Sometimes Americans feel that neither major party advances their preferred policies and beliefs.
How are presidential candidates chosen?
During the summer of a presidential election year, the Republicans and Democrats each hold a national convention where they adopt a “platform” of policies and nominate their party’s candidates for president and vice president.
National Nominating Conventions
The nominating conventions are widely televised and mark the start of the national presidential campaigns.
Does the presidential candidate with the most votes always win?
Drafters of the U.S. Constitution sought to create a system that balanced the interests of the (then) 13 states and those of the American people.
The nationwide presidential election is held in November, the Electoral College meets in December. The electors vote in their states on December 15, and Congress officially counts the results in January.
There are 538 electors in the Electoral College; 270 electoral votes are needed to win the presidential election. Most states award electoral votes on a winner-take-all basis.
Why do Americans keep the Electoral College?
It’s in the Constitution, and it is very difficult to amend the Constitution.
Why do U.S. presidential campaigns cost so much?
Election campaigns in the United States are privately funded but overseen by the Federal Election Commission.
The Electoral College system
forces presidential candidates to campaign widely.
And because presidential candidates cannot garner enough electoral votes by focusing on a single state or region, they learn about and address issues of interest to voters in all parts of the country.
It is expensive to communicate to a nation of 100 million voters for 12 or more months.
U.S. presidential candidates must campaign at the national level as well as in the 50 states.
Candidates for president have the daunting task of organizing their primary campaigns state by state and then, if nominated, their general election campaign throughout the nation.
How do Americans vote?
In the United States, elections — even those for federal office — are conducted locally.
The Senate was designed for its members to represent larger constituencies — an entire state — and to provide equal representation for each state, regardless of population.
Each of the 50 states is entitled to one seat in the House, with additional seats allocated according to population.
Since local authorities rather than
a single national authority conduct
elections, different localities—even
in the same state—can have different types of ballots and voting technology.
When are elections held?
Presidents and vice presidents are elected every 4 years. In the U.S. Congress, senators are elected every 6 years and representatives are elected every 2 years.
Every vote counts.
Voting is a right in the United States. It is not obligatory.
The only elected federal officials are the President, Vice President and member of Congress — the 435 members of the House of Representatives and the 100 senators.