That fact of American democracy is never more obvious on Election Day, when the president and vice president are elected state-by-state under systems that change from county-by-county or even precinct-by-precinct.
By the end of the night, more than 100 million individual voting decisions will be distilled into the only votes that count: the 538 votes in the Electoral College. The first candidate to 270 wins.
Beyond the red states and blue states, voters will be segmented into bellwether counties, in-person voters and absentee ballots, and dozens of demographic groups: men and women, the more and less educated, Baby Boomers and Millennials, Catholics and Jews, African-Americans and Hispanics, union and non-union households.Americans do not vote directly via popular ballot for their president.
A US president is elected via the “Electoral College” system.
The US election is on November 8, American time, but in Australia and NZ we will be seeing most of the action on Wednesday, November 9.
The first voting will begin in the town of Dixville Notch, New Hampshire, which has a population of 12.
They have a pretty cool tradition of voting at midnight, which means its results are known before the rest of the country
Tuesday, 10pm AEDT
Polls open in some states on the east coast.
Depending on the state, polling booths will open between 6am or 7am local time and close between 7pm or 8pm. (If you’re in line when polls close, you still get to vote.)
Fun fact: there are six different time zones across the United States, but just to make things nice and complex there are 13 states operating with split time zones.
The point is, most voting will take place overnight Tuesday, NZ time
The close of the polls on the west coast (i.e. 3pm AEDT) will be the first opportunity for the election to be “called”. The US television networks and cable channels nowadays generally agree to wait until this time to declare a winner so as not to affect voting turnout in those states.
Who actually votes?
Voting is not compulsory. According to the November 2014 US census, there are 219 million eligible voters (18 and older) out of the population of 330 million but only 142 million — 64.6 per cent — are actually registered to vote.
When does voting take place?
The members of the electoral college were already elected, these members do Voting takes place on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November. This year it is November 8.
But early, in-person voting has already begun in Minnesota — the first state to cast votes in the 2016 presidential race.
The election of President and Vice President of the United States is, technically, an indirect election in which citizens of the United States who are registered to vote in one of the fifty states or Washington, D.C. cast ballots for members of the U.S. Electoral College, known as electors. These electors then in turn cast direct votes, known as electoral votes, in their respective state capitals for President and Vice President. Each of the states casts as many electoral votes as the total number of Senators and House Representatives in Congress, while Washington, D.C. is represented by the same number of votes as the lowest-represented state, currently three.
In modern times, almost all electors are pledged to vote for a particular presidential candidate, thus the results of the election can generally be determined based on the state-by-state popular vote. The candidate who receives an absolute majority of electoral votes for President or Vice President is then elected to that office. If no candidate receives an absolute majority for President, the House of Representatives chooses the President; if no candidate receives a majority for Vice President, then the Senate chooses the Vice President
Electors include 435 members from the House of Representatives.
The magic number is 270 — that’s the number needed for a majority in the electoral college, where each state (plus Washington DC) is awarded a certain number of electoral college votes based roughly on size and population.
The first candidate to reach 270 wins, and swing states dictate the outcome.
|State of play|
|Solid Democrat||15 States, 188 Votes||California (55), Connecticut (7), Delaware (3), District of Columbia (3), Hawaii (4), Illinois (20), Maine-01 (1), Maryland (10), Massachusetts (11), New Mexico (5), New Jersey (14), New York (29), Oregon (7), Rhode Island (4), Vermont (3), Washington (12)|
|Likely Democrat||3 States, 25 votes||Maine-AL (2), Minnesota (10), Virginia (13)|
|Lean Democrat||5 States, 59 votes||Colorado (9), Michigan (16), New Hampshire (4), Pennsylvania (20), Wisconsin (10)|
|Toss Up||4 States*, 70 votes||Florida (29), Maine-02 (1), Nebraska-02 (1), Nevada (6), North Carolina (15), Ohio (18)|
|Lean Republican||3 States, 33 votes||Arizona (11), Georgia (16), Iowa (6)|
|Likely Republican||3 States, 27 votes||Indiana (11), Missouri (10), Utah (6)|
|Solid Republican||18 States, 136 votes||Alabama (9), Alaska (3), Arkansas (6), Idaho (4), Kansas (6), Kentucky (8), Louisiana (8), Mississippi (6), Montana (3), Nebraska-AL (2), Nebraska-01 (1), Nebraska-03 (1), North Dakota (3), Oklahoma (7), South Carolina (9), South Dakota (3), Tennessee (11), Texas (38), West Virginia (5), Wyoming (3)|
|*Maine and Nebraska can split their electoral votes. Source: The Cook Political Report.|
Americans do not vote directly via popular ballot for their president.
A US president is elected via the “Electoral College” system.
It is not a building or institution, rather the “College” is really just a way to name a group of 538 people who are the formal electors who cast an electoral vote.
Why 538 electors?
That number is decided as the total number of voting representatives in Congress — 435 members of the House of Reps plus 100 senators and three electors have been given to the District of Columbia.
majority — 270 electors who then cast their vote for the president — hence the various references to “The Road to 270” etc in US election coverage.
DC does not actually have any voting rights in Congress — hence its number plates “No taxation without Representation” which is originally from the American War for Independence.
So each state and DC have different numbers of electors. California, with 55, is worth the most — it has two senators and 53 representatives.
Wyoming has just three electors — two senators and one representative. There are eight states with this amount.
Who are the electors?
They are generally party officials with years of service who are chosen by their political parties in each state.
What they cannot be is federal or state politicians under Article II of the Constitution.
On the second Wednesday after the presidential election, the electors go to their state capital to cast their vote which is sometimes televised.
For many there is no law that says these electors must vote the way their state did, but the reality is 99 per cent have always done so. It is a quaint formality.