The Presidential Election Process at a Glance
The President of the United States is elected once in four years on Election Day, which is held on the first Tuesday following the first Monday in November. The next election (2016) is slated to be held on November 8, 2016.
The election process itself is quite elaborate where an individual does not directly vote for a presidential candidate. He or she will vote for a slate of electors, who will in turn cast their votes that will determine the electoral vote for their respective states. The use of electors is to ensure that a representative president is elected without any corruption creeping into the process.
Primaries and Caucuses
The process actually starts with the primary elections and caucuses where the candidates running for President will have to go through a round of state primaries and caucuses, which help the states, choose their nominees. The state primaries are usually run by the state and local governments and voting takes place through secret ballot.
Caucuses, on the other hand are private meetings organized by political parties. There are groups that are formed, with each one supporting a particular candidate. Those who are undecided form a separate group of their own. It is then that the deliberations begin with each group listing out the points why their candidate is best suited for the highest office. Both, primaries and caucuses are conducted either open or closed, or a fair mixture of the two. The open primary or caucus sees people voting for candidates from any political party, while the closed one is strictly for their own party candidate.
The running mate
The presidential nominee gets to announce the Vice Presidential running mate, after which a nationwide campaign begins where each party and candidate put forward their views and plans to the public. There are public debates where nominees from political parties participate, each trying to outdo the other with reasons why he or she is better suited to be the next President of the country.
Delegates or individuals are crucial for a presidential candidate because it’s the candidate who gets the most number of delegates of his or her party gets to win the nomination. There are complex rules governing the nomination process where state and national political party rules and practices come into play with several aspects of federal and state election laws that have to be strictly followed.
According to the norms set for the 2016 Democratic candidate, he or she has to get a minimum of 2,383 out of an estimate of 4,765 delegates in order to get nominated by the party. It is mandatory for Democratic presidential hopefuls to capture at least 15% of the votes they get in a primary or caucus to be receiving pledged delegates.
For the Republican candidate for 2016, he or she should receive 1,237 of the approximately 2,472 delegates in order to get the party’s nomination. For Republican candidates the percentage of primary or caucus votes for receiving delegates is different for each state. It depends on the state whether the candidate gets awarded proportionally or on a hybrid system.
Both, the Democratic and the Republican Party also have unpledged delegates, also known as super delegates who are not bound to any specific candidate headed to the national convention. After the primaries and caucuses are done with, it is customary for the political parties to hold a national convention wherein the winning candidate is conferred a nomination.
When it comes to finalizing their choice for Presidential and Vice Presidential nominees most of the political parties hold national conventions. These conventions take place soon after the primaries and caucuses get over. Here are the dates and locations for the 2016 National Conventions:
- The National Constitution Party’s Convention was held in Salt Lake City, Utah April 13.
- The National Convention of the Libertarian was held in Orlando, Florida May 26
- The National Convention of the Republican Party is to be held in Cleveland from July 18.
- The National Convention of the Democratic Party is to be held in Philadelphia from July 25.
- The National Convention of the Green Party is to be held in Houston, Texas from August 6.
Although the candidates have already received the minimum number of delegates through primaries and caucuses they get a confirmation at the National Conventions. Suppose there is any candidate who hasn’t received the minimum number of delegates, the convention is the stage where the Presidential nominee of the party is finalized.
The Two Primary types of delegates
The first type is the pledged or bound delegates as the name suggests are meant to support the candidate they are assigned to. They are known as bound delegates by the Republican Party, and are quite different from the unpledged or unbound delegates.
The second type is the unpledged or unbound delegates who are free to offer their support to the candidate of their choice. This is what sets them apart from the pledged or bound delegates who cannot support any candidate of their choice.
The Democratic Party delegates are often referred to as “superdelegates” and are the automatic choice for the Democratic National Convention. There is no compulsion for them to support a particular Presidential candidate. These delegates comprise members from the Democratic National Committee, Democratic members of Congress, Democratic governors and other distinguished party leaders who may be former Presidents and Vice Presidents as well.
The Republican Party delegates are known as unpledged delegates and are often referred to as “unbound delegates” as per the Congressional Research Service.
Brokered and Contested Conventions
In case not a single nominee has the party’s majority delegates attending the convention, then the Presidential candidate has to be picked through a brokered or contested convention. The pledged delegates have to necessarily vote for the candidate that was assigned to them in the first place, though unpledged delegates do not have such a compulsion. However, the pledged delegates will be allowed to select the candidate of their choice in the subsequent rounds. The voting will go on until one candidate emerges with the minimum majority required for a win.
Soon after the single nominee is chosen from each political party through primaries and caucuses or national conventions, brisk election campaigning begins. The selected candidates undertake extensive tours of the country putting forward their views and future plans to the electorate. The process includes heated public debates, conventions, rallies and advertising promotions.
Each vote that is cast in favor of a particular candidate goes to a specific group of people who called electors who belong to the electoral college, which is the process used to select the President and Vice President of the country. The Electoral College strikes a balance between the President being selected by vote in Congress and by popular vote of the citizens of the country. Of the total of 538 electors a nominee needs to get a minimum of 270, which is more than half in order to be elected President.