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With just hours away until Americans hit the polling booths, lets see what it actually takes to win the Presidency.

Once primaries, caucuses and national conventions are held and a final presidential candidate decided, the country (and the world) must endure months of campaigning. When the first Tuesday of November rolls around, the American people begin to vote for their preferred party. But here is where things get awry. Americans don’t technically vote for their President, instead electors do, cue the electoral college.

The electoral college is made up of 538 electors, which are made up of senators and members of Congress—plus three electors for the District of Columbia. Each state is allocated a certain number of electors based on their population size: the larger the population, the more elector votes. This is why states like Texas or California have more electors because they have higher population sizes. A candidate needs to obtain 270 of these elector votes (think of them as points); if they get 270 points, then they become president.

Image: USA.GOV

How does this affect democracy?

We know democracy to be a majority vote; whoever gets the most votes wins. This is not always the case in America.

When the people vote at federal elections, they are voting at the general election which will decide the popular vote. These votes only count to which state a presidential candidate will win.

So if a candidate wins a popular vote in Florida they win all of the electoral votes, which is 29. A candidate only needs to win a few big states to win the Presidency.

In 2016, Hillary won the popular vote nationwide but she did not win enough big states to gain the electoral votes, but Trump did. This also happened with Bush in 2000. The electoral college allows an unpopular candidate to become president.

 

Election watching

If you have decided to watch the dramatics of the US election unfold in real time, then there are a couple of things to look out for. Watch which states are being won, if either party gains a big state with a lot of electors then there is a good chance they’ll win.

Also, look out for the number 270, whoever gets to that number first wins it all. Remember that nation-wide popular votes don’t mean much, but state-wide popular votes are the key to elector votes which decide the President of the United States.

 

Further resources:

https://www.usa.gov/election