By Kate Bolduan
- How does the US presidential election system work?
We end up calling it “election season” because it goes on for so long. The first person to announce their candidacy this cycle was Ted Cruz on March 23, 2015.
Election day is November 8, 2016. Yes, they campaign for president for long past a year before America votes.
The system is broken down into basic two parts – the Primary and the General Election. The Primary comes first and that is when each of the political parties holds contests in each of the 50 states to select the party’s nominee for president.
The final primary this cycle was held near the beginning of June. Then the General Election kicks into full swing It’s very specifically spelled out in the US Constitution that the Presidential election be held on the “Tuesday following the first Monday in November.” The President is not elected by a simple nationwide popular vote. Of course it must be slightly more complicated; we are talking about the United States.
The president is elected by winning the “electoral college.” Essentially each of the US states is allotted a certain number of “electoral votes”.
For a candidate to win they must win the majority of the country’s electoral votes, which happens to be 270 votes. That’s why you will hear us constantly talking about “the road to 270.” Confused yet?
- Which are the swing states?
An example: Barack Obama won North Carolina in 2008 but then lost the state to Mitt Romney in 2012. That means North Carolina is a battleground because both campaigns in 2016 see a chance to win there.
This election cycle the battleground states include: Florida, Ohio, Virginia, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Iowa, Colorado and Nevada.
- Why is Ohio considered the most important state in a US election?
That is because no Republican candidate has ever won the White House without winning Ohio. For that matter, the last Democrat to win without carrying Ohio was John F. Kennedy in 1960. All of this together has earned this hearty Midwestern state the reputation as one of the most important states to watch on Election Day.
This also means Ohio is a state where candidates spend a lot of time, energy and advertising money throughout their campaign.
- What have been the key issues in the presidential election race?
- Was there a turning point in the presidential election race?
Every debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump changed the conversation. The scandals facing each of the candidates have changed the conversation. The near constant spats over social media between the candidates and their campaigns have changed the conversation.
- When will we get a result?
For a point of reference, CNN called President Obama the winner in 2012 at about 11:15pm eastern. In 2008, CNN declared Obama the winner at 11:00pm eastern. The biggest unknown right now – how late of a night will it be? It all comes down to how close the count is and no one can predict that right now.
- When does the new President take up office?
From that point on January 20,, 2017, the government is officially in the hands of the new president. Their staffs move in and immediately their phones start ringing.
- Are there also elections for Congress (the House of Representatives and the Senate)?
Republicans currently hold the majority. Democrats need to win 4 or 5 seats (depending on which party wins the White House) to take control of the Senate. This is possible but just like the presidency, no one will know for sure until all the votes are counted on November 8th.
- Why is this important?
But Tuesday night isn’t just about the Presidency and Congress. It’s also about the Supreme Court. Not only is there a vacant seat, but there is a possibility that there could be two more seats to fill during the next President’s term. And—you guessed it—anyone the President nominates must also be confirmed by the Senate.
- At what point in proceedings do we get an indication who is likely to have won?
If the exit polls are too close to call or somehow inconclusive, news agencies will wait for the actual results to be released. Polls close in the evening, and since the 50 states stretch across six time zones, be prepared for a late night!
That, of course, assumes we have a clear winner by the end of the night. In 2000, the tight vote in Florida triggered an automatic recount and legal showdown. It was 36 days before George W. Bush was certified as the winner.
- How many people in the US are likely to cast a vote?
Since the polls right now show there are very few undecided voters left out there, both Trump and Clinton are doing everything they can in these final days to get their supporters inspired, energized and ready to head to the ballot box.
- What is the demographic split between black/white/Hispanic or young/old etc?
Also a big first: there are as many Millennials eligible to vote as baby boomers. The big question—will they actually show up to vote?
- Where is the result announced?
- When does the Obama family have to move out of the White House?
- If Hillary wins, does this mean Bill Clinton moves back into his old bedroom?
Credit: Kate Bolduan presents State of the Race, weeknights at 7:30pm GMT on CNN International.