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Republicans vs Democrats: A quick guide to understanding the US presidential election

Many people reading this will be rejoicing at the fact that Donald Trump’s term as US President is almost in its final year, meaning that there will soon be the chance to have a new ‘leader of the free world’. The US presidential election will commence in November of 2020 meaning that campaigning will soon take place, with many people predicting the odds for the person who will be the Democratic nominee and face Trump in the next election.

In the last four years, a lot of people have looked angrily at America for their continual guns law flaws – striking the March for Our Lives movement – and their more recent move to remove women’s abortion rights. The country has come under a lot of scrutiny since Trump took up residency in the White House, but we forget that he was voted into power, meaning there is a lot of support for him – or is there?

One of the biggest aspects of US politics to be criticized after Trump was elected into power was the Electoral College, which has been deemed inadequate and many Americans now campaign for it to be scrapped. So, if Trump didn’t gain a majority, why does he now sit in the Oval Office? Here’s a quick guide to understanding how the US Presidential election works.

The two main parties in American politics are the Republicans and the Democrats, similar to the UK’s Conservative and Labour parties, respectively. Members who wish to represent their party will campaign across the country in an attempt to win support. During the primaries, party members will vote in state elections for whomever they wish to represent them in the general election.

In the national conventions, each party will select a Presidential nominee, who will then select their choice for Vice President. It is at this point that the presidential nominees’ campaign throughout the country to win support from the public will begin, in the last election this is where we saw Trump and Hillary Clinton battle it out at their various rallies.

On Election Day, the public is voting for a group of people called electors – each state has a certain amount of electors that reflects the number of Senators and Members of the House of Representatives for that state, for example, Florida has 29 electors with two senators and 27 House of Representatives members. The total Electoral College amounts to 538 electors, with each getting one electoral vote, it is these votes that determine the next President, with the successful candidate needing 270 votes to succeed.

The public vote for their electors based on what party they represent, for example, Marco Rubio is a Republican senator, voting for him would ensure a vote for Trump. It is down to the public to vote their state electors in favor of one of the parties.

The issue is that for most of the states, the electoral role works on a winner-takes-all basis, meaning that if 50.1% of the electors for California voted Democratic, they would then receive all 55 electoral votes. This means if a candidate receives the most votes on a nation-wide basis, they can still lose the election – it all depends on the number of electors they receive. For example, in the year 2000, Albert Gore Jr. received the popular vote but George W. Bush received a majority of electoral votes which made him President – the same situation occurred in 2016 when Trump was elected.

Some states can always be counted on to represent a certain party, for example, Wyoming is typically more than likely to vote Republican as they have a rural, white and evangelical population. It is the swing states that candidates will have to work to convince as they regularly see close competition from the left and right wings. These swing states are crucial to Presidential candidates, as well as Maine and Nebraska, which are the only states to work based on the popular vote, meaning that each congressional district is awarded one elector with the winner of the state-wide vote winning the two remaining electors.

After the scrutiny from the last election, there is hope that more states will turn away from the winner-takes-all method and turn to the popular vote to decide the next President, although we’re not sure this will happen any time soon.