The Sunrise….

February 4, 2008

The US Presidential Election Process

The US election process looks very complicated to an outsider. In a layperson’s terms, a party primary election conducted in the states is the first process in selecting its nominee to fight for the post of President.

In US, there are two large political parties the Democrats and the Republicans. Before the actual election, these parties follow an extensive selection procedure for identifying their Presidential nominees. This selection procedure itself usually takes around 8 months.

Each person who wishes to be a candidate for his party tries to win delegates (representatives) from each of the 51 states. These delegates are picked by the states themselves. The timing and method of picking delegates varies from state to state.It can happen anytime within the 8 month process.

Again there are two methods of elections that a state can use. The caucus and the primary. A caucus is when people in an area come together at a public place and meets to talk about the election and select the delegates there itself. A primary is like a normal election, where people go to a polling station and vote for the person they want. There are no meetings, and the ballot is a secret. Most of the states follow this method.

The caucus and primary can again be classified as open, closed or modified.Closed – only registered members of a party may participate Open – any registered voter may participate Modified – Independents may declare party affiliation and participate .

After all the states pick their delegates, they hold the national convention. All the delegates get together in one place and vote for the person they want to be the candidate for their party. This person is called the nominee.

Now for the general election, each nominee for President runs together with a candidate for Vice-President on a “ticket.” Voters select one ticket to vote for; they can’t choose a presidential candidate from one ticket and a vice-presidential candidate from another ticket.

The national presidential election actually consists of a separate election in each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia; in these 51 elections, the voters are really voting for “electors” pledged to one of the tickets. These electors make up the “Electoral College.” (In most cases, the names of the electors aren’t written on the ballot; instead the ballot lets voters choose among “Electors for” each of the tickets, naming the presidential and vice-presidential candidates each slate of electors is pledged to.) Each state has the same number of electors as it has senators and representatives (there are two senators from each state, but the number of representatives depends on the state population in the most recent census). The District of Columbia, although it isn’t a state, also participates in presidential elections — it currently has three electors.

Super Tuesday: In the United States, Super Tuesday generally refers to the Tuesday in early February or March of a presidential election year when the greatest number of states hold primary elections to select delegates to national conventions at which each party’s presidential candidates are officially nominated. Since Super Tuesday primaries are held in a large number of states from geographically and socially diverse regions of the country, Super Tuesday typically represents a Presidential candidate’s first test of national electability. More delegates can be won on Super Tuesday than on any other single day of the primary calendar, and accordingly, candidates seeking the presidency traditionally must do well on this day to secure their party’s nomination. Convincing wins in Super Tuesday primaries have usually propelled candidates to their party’s nomination.

In 1992, after losing earlier primaries, Democrat Bill Clinton emerged as a candidate “back from the dead” when he convincingly won a number of Southern primaries on Super Tuesday. Clinton ultimately went on to win the Democratic nomination and the presidency. In 2008, Super Tuesday is February 5; 24 states held primaries or caucuses on this date, with 52 percent of all pledged Democratic Party delegates and 41 percent of the total Republican Party delegates at stake.

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