Behind the Scenes of Presidential Elections in the USA

  • Editorials
Ashita G. ('22)

How do presidential elections take place? An insight into the 2020 presidential election in the USA. 

We are often curious about who our future president may be, what their values will bring, and how they might carry out their term of the presidency—but are we aware of how candidates are elected and win over the nation’s hearts? How exactly are they chosen? Are the best methods being used to choose a political leader? Or could these methods possibly be biased? 

The United States follows and utilizes a central process for presidential elections in order to maximize its efficiency. Candidates ‘running for president’ should be aware of the regulations listed by the US Constitution, however, there are three conditions established by the government. First, the applicant must be conceived in the US and be a citizen. Secondly, the candidate should be at least 35 years old. Lastly, the candidate must hold residential experience in the US for at least 14 years. 


1. Primaries and Caucuses


The two central political parties, Democrats and Republicans, begin campaigning for their selected nominees a year before the elections. This can be done by giving speeches, participating in discussions, and speaking out for the community, in order to win popular support from the citizens. The two methods, primaries and caucuses, although different, both serve the purpose to select each party’s presidential nominee. According to USA Today, primary elections are run by the state government while caucuses take place within the party. During a primary election, voters cast secret ballots and if it is an open process, a person registered in the democratic party can vote for a Republican candidate. However, if it is closed, the person registered in a party is only able to select a candidate in their party.  Caucuses are more common, as voters discuss and present their opinions for the nominee at local debates. Depending on how many votes one receives percentage-wise, their campaign may end unless the supports gather more people. 

2. National Convention


Although numerous candidates are selected during the primaries and caucuses, the final votes are cast and each party’s nominees are finalized. This is also when the nominees decide who their vice president (running mate) would be if they were elected. A candidate must receive majority support from the delegates, however, when this does not happen, there are several more rounds of voting that takes place to ensure that a candidate receives a winning number of majority support.


3. General Election


After each party’s nominees are announced, the candidates explicitly focus on their campaign to win the nation’s support for the next few months. The General Election is a period solely dedicated to debates and campaigning to ensure that the people can choose a respected president accordingly. Those above 18 in the US states are eligible to vote for a pair of President and Vice President. The votes cast by the citizens are called the popular vote. However, the selection of a president is not directly affected by this. 


4. Electoral College 

Despite the significance of the popular vote, the president is chosen by the electors, through a process called the Electoral College system. Each state has a select number of electors, equal to the amount that they have in the Congress. Currently, there are 538 electors in total, combining all the states. Therefore, a candidate must receive more than 270 votes to win the election. For instance, in the 2016 presidential election, Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by 2,864,903 votes but lost the electoral votes with 227, while Donald Trump gained 304. As a result, Trump won the election and was declared President of the United States. 

The next presidential election will take place on November 3rd, 2020 and is centered on the prospect of Trump’s re-election. There are numerous democratic candidates running against him, including Bernie Sanders, Joe Biden, and Kamala Harris (all candidates listed: 2020 election candidates). There are numerous factors that will contribute and potentially affect the results of the upcoming election. 


For instance, there are more than 224 million Americans eligible for voting, but in 2016, 30% of people decided not to vote or were blocked, as stated by a Guardian article. It was also given that there was a 29.3% increase in voters during the 2018 midterm election compared to the election in 2014. Trump is also facing impeachment scandals at the moment as is under trial for committing illegal actions to dealt a blow to their campaign for personal benefit. His establishment of the Republican tax law in 2018 and the sudden government shutdown in 2019 were also unpopular amongst citizens. This could result in a thrilling but capricious election, with unpredictable results as head into 2020. 

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