Re: primaries, caucuses and party conventions

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Posted by Inside-out on October 12, 2008 at 19:54:31

In Reply to: Re: sure is complicated posted by Inside-out on October 12, 2008 at 19:45:02:

The US electoral system
The United States Constitution states that presidential and vice presidential elections must be held every four years.

Congressional elections are held at the same time - and mid-term elections take place in the middle of a presidential term - once every two years.

Candidates from major and minor parties begin campaigning and fundraising at least a year before the actual election day.

Primaries and caucuses
Candidates must be nominated by their party to officially run for the White House.

This nominating process begins, usually in January of the election year, with the state primaries and caucuses.

At these primaries and caucuses voters are given the first opportunity to vote for nominees in the race for the White House.

At an open primary, the whole electorate is eligible to vote for a nominee, regardless of their membership of a political party.

At a closed primary, only registered members of the party are able to vote.

Caucuses take place at precincts or minor civil divisions, in which candidates are nominated through discussion of party issues.

Party conventions
In the lead-up to a presidential election, most parties who are fielding nominees will hold a nominating convention.

At the party conventions, delegates will vote for a preferred candidate and the candidate who receives the most votes from their delegates is elected as the party's official nominee.

Party conventions also act as a platform to adopt statements of goals and principles.

The big day
When the polls open on election day, instead of a national poll, the vote is made up of 51 state level elections in which the members of the Electoral College are decided.

So, instead of actually voting directly for a presidential candidate, voters choose a slate of 538 popularly elected representatives who pledge to vote for a particular candidate.

These electors generally promise in advance to vote for a particular presidential candidates, although they are technically free to vote for anyone.

The winner of the election is the candidate with at least 270 Electoral College votes.

State law governs how the electoral college votes are cast. In every state except Maine and Nebraska the elector with the most votes in a state receives all its electoral college votes on a 'winner takes all' principal.

The number of electors from each state equals the number of senators and representatives the state sends to Congress.

If no candidate receives 270 electors, the House of Representatives decides who the next president will be.

After the election, the Electoral College meets in December to formalise the election, although the results are usually known soon after the election.

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