A guide to the 2020 US election
When is the election?
The US presidential election always falls on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November. This year’s election will be on 3 November.
The US Presidential election is held every four years. US presidents can only serve two terms – so a total of 8 years.
The US is unlike most countries when it comes to the political system. The US system is dominated by only two parties, Democrats and Republicans – which means one from either party will be president.
The Republican Party: Also known as Grand Old Party (GOP) the Republican party has in recent years stood for lower taxes, gun rights and tighter immigration restrictions. The party tends to do better in more rural parts of the United States.
2020 Candidate: President Trump is hoping to secure four more years in office
The Democratic Party: America’s more liberal party on issues such as civil rights, immigration, health care and climate change. The party tends to do better in more urban parts of the United States.
2020 Candidate: Former Vice-President Joe Biden
How will the winner be decided?
The candidates will compete to win electoral college votes. Each state gets a certain number of electoral college votes based on its population and there are a total of 538 up for grabs, so the winner is the candidate that wins 270 or more.
The winner is not always the candidate that wins the most votes nationally (the popular vote) as when someone votes for their preferred candidate, they’re voting in a state-level contest rather than a national one.
Only two states don’t have a winner-takes-all rule, so for the rest, the candidate that wins the highest number of votes gets all of the state’s electoral college votes.
Most states lean towards one party – so the candidate will focus all their efforts on a dozen or so states known as battleground states.
Battleground states: The states – also known as swing states – are split fairly evenly between Democrats and Republicans. Traditional battleground states include Florida and Ohio. But 2020 has what were traditional Republican states like Arizona and Texas as battleground states due to increased support for the Democrats.
Any American citizen aged 18 and over should be eligible to vote in the US presidential elections.
However, lots of states have passed laws requiring ID documents to prove who they are before voting.
These laws are usually put into place by Republicans who claim the laws are needed to protect against fraud.
But Democrats say this is a form of voter suppression as its often poorer, minority voters who are unable to provide ID like a driving license.
States have different rules on whether prisoners can vote. Most lose their right when convicted but regain it when they have served their sentence.
People can vote at polling stations on the day of the election but there are alternative methods such as postal votes.
Voting in the 2020 election is a sore topic due to the coronavirus pandemic. Some politicians are calling for wider use of postal votes, but President Trump believes it could result in voting fraud, though there is little evidence.
Who else are we voting for?
The US Presidential election isn’t just about choosing a president. The US will also be choosing new members of Congress when they vote.
At present, the Democrats have control of the House and will be looking to keep hold of it whilst gaining control of the Senate.
Democrats already have control of the House so they will be looking to keep hold of that while also gaining control of the Senate.
If they had a majority in both chambers they will be able to block or delay Trump’s plans if he were to be re-elected.
All 435 seats in the House are up for election this year, while 33 Senate seats are also up for grabs.
When do we find out the results?
It usually takes several days for the votes to be counted, but it’s usually clear who the winner is by the early hours of the following morning.
This year, officials are warning it may take longer due to the coronavirus pandemic that might see more people turn to postal voting.
When does the new presidency start?
There is a transition period between the results and the new president taking office. So if Joe Biden wins the election he won’t immediately replace Donald Trump.
The new president is sworn into office on 20 January in a ceremony known as the inauguration which is held on the steps of the Capitol building in Washington DC.
After the inauguration, the new president will head to the White House to start their four-year term.
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