How do Americans elect the president?
The way to the White HouseHow does the electoral system work in the USA?
Coalition negotiations and difficult government formations, such as in the German Bundestag, are not provided for in the US electoral system - the Americans elect the president from the candidates of the two major parties.
(ZUMA Wire / picture alliance) Where the choice will be decided now
Trump has already declared himself the winner. But the choice has not yet been made, in several states the number is still being counted. There is a threat of legal disputes.
Nevertheless, the path from the election, which always takes place on the first Tuesday in November, to the swearing-in of the president on January 20, can become complicated and a hanging game that can even develop into a political crisis - as was the case in 2000 controversial count in Florida between George W. Bush and Al Gore, when a Supreme Court decision finally cleared the way for Bush to enter the White House.
How does the electoral system work in the USA?
The US president is only indirectly determined by the electorate. Their vote decides on the composition of the electoral college, the Electoral College, which then elects the president. The Electoral College is made up of the electors and electors any state may send. The number of voters in a state is based on the number of inhabitants, for example California sends 55, Texas 38 and Florida 29 voters, Alaska and Delaware only 3 each. It should be noted, however, that the number of voters is not proportional to the population of a state is growing. An elector in Montana represents around 350,000 voters, while an elector in California represents more than twice as many, but both have the same weight of one vote in Electoral College.
The principle of "winner takes all" applies to voting in 48 of the 50 states. That means: The presidential candidate who wins the majority of the votes in one of these states receives the votes of all electorates of this state, the other one gets completely empty. Only in the two small states of Nebraska and Maine are the votes of the electorate distributed approximately proportionally.
To become president, a candidate must have at least 270 votes. The Electoral College vote will take place 41 days after the presidential election, this year on December 14th. The official result will not be announced in Congress until January 6th.
Because of the indirect voting system, it is possible that a candidate might get the most direct votes nationwide but still lose the election. That was the case in 2016, for example. At that time, a few million more Americans voted for Hillary Clinton, but Donald Trump secured the majority of the electorate in the Electoral College through the states he won.
Which states are particularly important?
Florida is considered the jackpot: with 29 voters, it is one of the most contested states. This is followed by the traditional "battleground states" or "swing states", states in which the majority structure between Republicans and Democrats has changed over and over again in the past. These include Pennsylvania (20 votes) and Ohio (18), as well as Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota (together 36 votes).
Current surveys also suggest an open race in Georgia (16), North Carolina (15) and Arizona (11). It would be a real earthquake if Biden could win Texas. The big state with 36 votes has been going to the Republicans for decades - but some polls give Biden at least little chance there.
(imago images / ZUMA Wire / Pavlov Gonchar) US presidential election: The fight for the swing states
Swing states have always played a major role in the US presidential elections: They are the main venues for election campaigns and can decide elections. But what exactly makes a state a swing state?
Many other states are hardly contested. For the Democrats, for example, the states on the west coast, Washington, Oregon and California and those in the northeast, including New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts, are safe banks. The Republicans traditionally do particularly well in the Midwest, such as Wyoming and Oklahoma, and in the south, including Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.
Who can vote?
Initially, everyone of the approximately 330 million US citizens who is at least 18 years old is entitled to vote. Residents of U.S. suburbs such as Puerto Rico are excluded. Most states also do not allow inmates and people convicted of serious crimes to vote. According to a civil rights group, this affects around 5.2 million people. All others must register with the responsible electoral office before voting.
When is the vote?
The United States spans multiple time zones. The first polling stations in the northeastern state of Vermont will open at 5:00 a.m. (11:00 a.m. CET). From 6 a.m., many states on the east coast will follow, followed by the center of the country. In the west coast state of California, polling stations open at 7:00 a.m. (4:00 p.m. CET).
Hawaii and Alaska bottom the long line of states. The islanders can cast their vote until 6:00 a.m. CET on Wednesday morning. In large parts of Alaska, too, the polling stations are open until 6:00 a.m. CET, and in the Aleutian Islands an hour longer, until 7:00 a.m. CET. With the closure of the polling stations in the northernmost state, the US election is over.
Postal voters could vote weeks before the election. In addition, most states offer the option of voting in polling stations before the election date. In 2016, around 40 percent of the votes were cast in these two ways before election day. This year it seems to be even more: a week before the election, according to researchers, around 60 million Americans had already voted.
(picture alliance / Jürgen Schwenkenbecher) What role does postal voting play in the presidential election?
The US presidential election will take place on November 3rd. Because of the corona pandemic, many people vote by postal vote. This could have a significant impact on the outcome of the election.
Why is voting on a Tuesday?
Election day has been legally established since 1845 as the Tuesday after the first Monday in November. Election day is a normal working day.
There are historical reasons that it falls on a Tuesday in November. In the 19th century, most Americans still made a living from agriculture. In spring and summer, many farmers were busy tilling their fields. In November, however, the harvest season was over in most areas, but the climate was still mild enough to be able to travel to the nearest polling station by horse-drawn carriage or on foot. Sunday was not an option for travel or voting, because that was when you went to church.
What else will be voted on on November 3rd?
The composition of the US Congress is also voted on at the same time as the presidential election. All 435 seats in the House of Representatives and around a third of the 100 seats in the Senate are available for election. There are also many popular votes in the states. In Colorado
for example, there is a vote on the reintroduction of gray wolves into the wild, in Mississippi on the approval of marijuana as a medicinal product and the design of the state's new flag.
(picture alliance / Wolfram Steinberg)
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