Just about the difficult: answers to the main questions about the 2020 elections
Reviewers CNN We collected the most popular searches related to the US presidential election and prepared a selection of answers to them. How does the American electoral system work? What has already changed and will change in 2020? Here's what you should know about it.
When does the US election begin?
Short answer: Under US law, Election Day is always the Tuesday after the first Monday in November. In 2020, it is November 3.
Clarifying answer: Elections will begin a few weeks before November 3rd. Many people in the United States vote early or by mail, and this year more people will vote remotely than ever with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Full answer: elections have been going on for several months. Presidential elections begin with the main political parties, Republicans, and Democrats choosing their candidates (Donald Trump and Joe Biden this year). The primary elections that define these candidates started in early 2020 and were completed by summer.
It is important to know: There are many other important electoral processes that take place simultaneously with the presidential race. Voters will elect all 435 members of the US House of Representatives who have been in power for 2 years. Voters in some states will also vote for US senators who serve for 6 years. The party that controls these two houses of Congress has great power in Washington, so these elections are important in terms of what the newly elected (or re-elected) president can achieve.
When does the US election end?
Short answer: Nov 3 - Although Alaskans will be the last to vote, after midnight ET.
Clarifying answer: when all the votes are counted.
Full answer: given the use of remote voting by mail this year, finding out who won the popular vote may take more than one day. There can always be a big gap of voices that immediately catches the eye. But neither side admits defeat until it is absolutely sure that it lost (after the 2000 election, Al Gore, who won more votes but fewer votes than George W. Bush, demanded a manual recount several times before the Supreme Court decided to admit defeat of Horus).
Elections can drag on for several days or even weeks, as states wait until ballots are gathered and carry out the necessary recounts before confirming their results. In the same 2000, for more than a month it was not clear who had won.
Why is U.S. election day scheduled for November Tuesday?
This is not spelled out in the Constitution, but it is a matter of law. Congress set the date back in 1845.
Can elections be postponed or changed?
This question is especially curious in connection with the pandemic. Since election day is established by law, an act of Congress and Presidential approval will be required to accept or change the date. It doesn't seem to be that likely.
Who can vote?
The simple answer is that the 26th Amendment set the voting age to 18, and US citizens older than that age can vote.
But that is not all. Voters don't elect the president directly. This is done by the Electoral College, which is made up of electoral representatives from each state who vote on the basis of a popular vote. Thus, ordinary citizens go to the polls to decide who in their states will receive votes cast by members of the electoral college.
The rules are different in each state and may even vary within states.
Notably, in recent years, new state laws have sought to make voting more difficult. Legislators have raised concerns about fraud, although research shows electoral fraud is extremely rare. They put forward demands to present identity cards in some places, and tried to “clear” the voter lists. Opponents complained that these restrictions were a form of suppression of voters.
Prisoners can vote in Vermont and Maine, but not in others. An attempt to allow prisoners in Florida to vote was approved by voters in 2016, but then stalled by the Republicans who run the state government.
Add to this the stain of slavery and repression that did not allow black people to vote, first because they were slaves, and then because of literacy checks and voting taxes. Also add the fact that women in all US states could not vote until 1920.
Plus there are territories. Puerto Ricans are US citizens, but there are no Electoral College votes in the territory - so people registered there are not eligible to vote in the November presidential election, although they can vote in the party primaries.
What's in the newsletter?
Short answer: most Americans vote for the president and Congress, but the November ballots will also hold state and local elections, so they will vary in different cities and states.
Full answer: anyone who votes in the US state can vote for the president. But the newsletter options will vary by state. Biden and Trump will be listed everywhere, but there will be other options for smaller parties, which vary depending on state rules.
Everyone who votes in the US state will also vote for a member of Congress, with some exceptions. Residents of Washington, DC, elect only a non-voting delegate to Congress. Puerto Rico residents also elect to Congress only a non-voting delegate.
Each state of the United States has two senators - regardless of whether their population is tiny, like in Wyoming, or large, like in California. But senators have a six-year term of office, so only about a third of them vote in any given year.
Some states will elect governors this year, while others will not. Most ballots will also have some combination of state and local representatives. Some states have voting initiatives, they ask their residents all kinds of questions, and some people are encouraged to vote for local initiatives. Again, they are all different.
Contact your local government or state secretary for a sample newsletter.
How are US senators elected?
They are elected by popular vote in the state. But this does not go as the Constitution originally envisaged. Senators used to be elected by state legislatures. The creators of this rule wanted to protect senators from public opinion. But it turned out to be a terribly corrupt practice, and it took over 100 years of effort to amend the Constitution in 1913 with the 17th amendment, which obliged people to choose their senators.
How are members of the US House of Representatives elected?
They are elected by popular vote in polling stations for congressional elections. But it is worth noting that not all sections are evenly distributed. A census that takes place every 10 years (including in 2020) determines how many plots each state receives.
Political parties have long been trying to take advantage of their state plots, often thereby strengthening their majority in the states and supporting jerrymandering. This process of arbitrary demarcation of constituencies in order to artificially change the balance of political forces in them and on the territory of the election has been the subject of numerous lawsuits. Other states have tried to make it fairer by adopting non-partisan or bipartisan commissions to change district boundaries.
There are also paradoxical differences associated with population in states. The only congressional district in Wyoming has less than 600 people. The county in California or Texas will have more than 000 people.
After the 2020 census, “redistribution” will occur, and some states may lose or gain seats in the House depending on the population change.
How is the US president elected?
But this is more complicated.
Each state holds its own elections, but they all include Republicans and Democrats on their ballots. Therefore, while there are no technical rules that elections are held between the two parties, this is indeed the case. Parties select their candidates during a series of primaries, usually starting in January of the same year as the general election. The timeline starts from there.
All states hold their general elections on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November. The electors are then determined - the people who will vote on the Electoral College - based on the winner in the national election.
State electors meet in state capitals on the first Monday after the second Wednesday of December - December 2020 in 14 - and vote for President and Vice President.
Then they send the results to Capitol Hill by December 23rd.
All electoral votes from each state are ultimately awarded to the winner of that state, with the exception of Maine and Nebraska, where two electoral votes go to the winner of the state, and the remaining votes - representing congressional districts - go to the winner of that congressional district.
Electoral College votes are publicly counted in Congress on January 6 by the current Vice President.
Then there are two weeks to settle the disputes, and on January 20, the new president takes office.
On the subject: US Supreme Court changes presidential voting system
Is election voting based on popular voting?
NOT! And that's how Trump became president, even though more people voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016. Same thing with George W. Bush vs. Al Gore and several other presidents in history. The system, which today benefits small and less densely populated states, was created before most of the US population could vote. This gave the states in the south partial recognition of their enslaved populations in determining the scope of representation, but only allowed certain white males to vote.
Today, American voters vote for the president, but they still elect electors who will ultimately choose the president. The number of electors has been set at 538 since 1964, and 270 votes are required to win. Each state receives a number of electors equal to its representation in Congress (House of Representatives plus two Senators). Thus, Wyoming will receive three voters, and California, the most populous state, will receive 55.
When will the election results be announced?
Election officials usually begin counting and reporting results after polling stations in their area close. You will see that these results begin to seep through the media pretty quickly. Or you'll hear about one of the defeated candidates. If there is insufficient information, it may take longer to figure out the results.
Typically, on election day, Americans already know who won the presidential race. But, as already mentioned, this time the vote count can take significantly longer, as more people vote by mail or in absentia. But the formal process of choosing a president lasts for months, and technically the winner is not announced, at least until January 6th.
Can an election end in a draw?
No, the president will eventually be elected. But on this path, a number of obstacles may arise. If, after election day, none of the candidates receives 270 votes (or both 269 votes each), the House of Representatives elects a president and each state delegation receives a vote. This will be the case until one of the candidates gets the majority.
History buffs should read about the election of 1824, when the House of Representatives made John Quincy Adams president, although Andrew Jackson was more popular and received more votes from the start of the race.
When will the winner take office?
Wednesday noon, 20 January 2021. Mark on your calendar.
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