US Presidential Elections. Glossary and Process

US Electoral Process

Its tough to understand the complexities of the US presidential election. A contest that dominates news around the world for the best part of a year. First the candidates have be chosen by their respective parties, then once the winning ticket has been agreed for each party, the real contest begins.

To complicate matters, both competitions are conducted through electoral representative bodies, rather than being direct elections. What does this mean? It means that each state elects a representative to go to an electing body and vote on their behalf. This process happens for the Democratic Party and the Republican Party with conventions of delegates. Then again for the presidential election with the convening of electors at the Electoral College.

All seems unnecessarily complex, but it comes from a time when men needed weeks to reach Washington from the further flung corners of the USA. So the idea of a mass direct ballot was unthinkable.

Now for the presidential election this shouldn’t make any difference to the final outcome (although in a dead heat like 2000, it may do), In the election of the candidates for the parties it has a much greater influence. It is not totally unknown for delegates to change their vote and not vote the way they were instructed. Further, not all delegates are elected. Some are just important people in the parties. So the convention of delegates is a much less pure democratic system.

Glossary: Some useful terms to help you understand the US elections

Primary: State based election for a delegate to vote for a candidate to the Republican or Democratic Party using a secret ballot.

Caucus: Same as a Primary, but the vote is a public one

Ticket: Once a candidate has become a party’s nomination for president, that candidate chooses a vice president on a ‘ticket’. So a ticket is a the combo offer to the voting nation: Presidency and Vice-Presidency candidature.

 

 

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