The American electoral system: presidential elections
The American electoral systemMore than a year before the actual presidential election, the circus is breaking out. In principle, anyone can apply for a presidential candidate. However, the majority of the candidates drop out prematurely because a lot of money is needed to campaign. That campaign is needed to become known to American citizens. Many candidates are known in the local politics of a city or state, but not in the rest of the United States.
CandidatesA candidate is free to choose whether to play for an existing party or to remain independent. If he binds himself to a party, he will receive financial support for his campaign and it will be decided within the party whether he can continue as a presidential candidate. If a candidate remains independent, he needs gifts to campaign. Most independent candidates stop before the primaries start.
PrimariesThe elections start in January with the primaries. All fifty states of America cast their votes independently. Caucuses are held for this in some states. Ultimately, a Republican and a Democratic favorite emerge from the primaries.
Republicans vs DemocratsAfter this, the Republican and Democratic convention takes place where both parties present their official candidate.
There are now only a limited number of candidates left (1 for the Democrats, 1 for the Republicans and the few other parties or independents who still persist). Now comes a period where the candidates get a lot of media attention and debate with each other in public. They try to put counter candidates in a bad light and get as many voters as possible behind themselves. Eventually the elections will take place.
The electionsDuring the elections, the president is not yet elected, but it is determined per state which candidate gets the most votes. Each state is represented by a number of electors (regardless of the size of the state - for example, California provides 54 electors). The candidate who gets the most votes in a state gets all the electors from that state. In total there are 538 electors and 270 candidates have enough to become president. About a month after the elections, the Electoral College decides who will be president.
If none of the candidates in the Electoral college has a majority, the House of Representatives takes a decision.
The thus elected new president of the United States officially takes the oath in January and then moves to the White House.