EXPLAINER | Americans go to the polls on Tuesday: How US voting system works

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The much-anticipated United States (US) presidential election happens on Tuesday 3 November. The general election is held every four years – on the Tuesday after the first Monday in November.

Americans will choose between the incumbent Donald Trump or challenger Joe Biden as their next US president.

The US has a different system of declaring the overall winner of the presidential election compared to South Africa.  When you vote for a Presidential candidate you are actually voting for your candidate’s preferred electors.

The electors are selected during what is called an Electoral College. According to the USA.gov election website, the Electoral College was established in the Constitution by the Founding Fathers as a compromise between the election of the President by a vote in Congress and the election of the President by a popular vote of qualified citizens.

In other US elections, candidates are elected directly by popular vote. But the President and Vice President are not elected directly by citizens. The President and Vice President are chosen by “electors” through a process called the Electoral College.

The Electoral College Process

The Electoral College is where the electors are selected. There will be a meeting of the electors and they will vote for the President and Vice President as well as the counting of electoral votes by Congress.

How many electors are there?

The Electoral College consists of 538 electors. In order to elect the President, a majority of 270 electoral votes are required. A US State has the same number of electors as it does Members in its Congressional delegation: one for each member in the House of Representatives plus two Senators.

How are the electors distributed?

Each candidate running for President in the US has his or her own group of electors (known as a slate). The slates are generally chosen by the candidate’s political party in the State, but State laws vary.

What are the electors’ qualifications?

There are a few provisions in the US Constitution relating to the qualifications of electors. Article II, section 1, clause 2 provides that no Senator or Representative, or person holding an Office of Trust or Profit under the United States, shall be appointed an elector.

Each State’s Certificates of Ascertainment confirms the names of its appointed electors. A State’s certification of its electors is generally sufficient to establish the qualifications of electors.

Who selects the electors?

This is a two-part process. First, the political parties in each US State choose slates of potential electors sometime before the general election. Second, during the general election, the voters in each State select their State’s electors by casting their ballots.

Restrictions on electors

There is no Constitutional provision or Federal law that requires electors to vote according to the results of the popular vote in their States. Some US States, however, require electors to cast their votes according to the popular vote. These pledges fall into two categories—electors bound by State law and those bound by pledges to political parties.

What happens after the general election?

After the general election, your Governor prepares a Certificate of Ascertainment listing the names of all the individuals on the slates for each candidate. The Certificate of Ascertainment also lists the number of votes each individual received and shows which individuals were appointed as your State’s electors. Your State’s Certificate of Ascertainment is sent to NARA as part of the official records of the Presidential election.

Meeting of electors after general election

The meeting of the electors takes place on the first Monday after the second Wednesday in December after the general election. The electors meet in their respective States, where they cast their votes for President and Vice President on separate ballots.

The President-elect takes the oath of office and is sworn in as President of the United States on January 20th of the year following the general election. – Source United States government

 USA. gov video below explains how one becomes the President of the US