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Aug 01, 2017 at 10:50

Even if you don’t wish to, US presidential election is all around us. We after all cannot ignore the election of the leader of one of the most powerful democracies in the world. Our expert Yashwant Deshmukh breaks down the electoral process for us.

So all of you must have heard of Barack Obama aka POTUS, President of the United States of America, said to be the most powerful person of planet Earth. But do you know how this “most powerful person on planet earth” is chosen??

Elections, of course.

All of us have an idea about election. Most probably you must have seen one in your School or Class or the election for your House Captain. If not, then maybe you have seen the RWA elections where two of your quarrelling neighbors contested for the same post and then stopped talking to each other altogether. If not, then I am sure you remember the 2014 Lok Sabha election for sure when Narendra Modi became Prime Minister of India.

So, how is the election of Modi different from election of Barack Obama? Very simple. India has a Parliamentary form of Democracy while USA has a Presidential form of Democracy.

In India, we vote to elect MPs (Member Of Parliament) and those MPs decide who will become the Prime Minister. So, even though Narendra Modi was the PM candidate of BJP/NDA, actually voters of India didn’t get to vote for Modi. They had to vote for the MP candidate of BJP/NDA, who after winning the majority in Lok Sabha selected Modi to be the PM of India. This is called “Indirect Democracy”. While in case of USA, there is this Presidential system where People voted for Barack Obama directly in order to make him the President. This is called “Direct Democracy”.

But more than this particular way there is a brilliantly unique aspect of US elections, which is called Primaries, or election before the election. These Primaries are held by different “Parties” to select their Presidential candidate. So American voters not only have a choice to directly elect their President; they also have a choice to decide who they wish should contest the election altogether.

The people allowed to vote in the primaries are the registered supporters of the respective parties. For example, if we had the same system in India; then Congress Party would be running a primary election to decide who would be their PM candidate: Rahul Gandhi or Manmohan Singh? Now suppose, Rahul Gandhi wins that primary election where only Congress supporters get to vote, then he becomes the PM candidate of the Congress/UPA. Now imagine, similarly the BJP would be running a Primary election to decide who would be their PM candidate: Narendra Modi or Sushma Swaraj? If Narendra Modi wins that primary election where only BJP supporters get to vote, then he becomes the PM candidate of BJP/NDA.

Finally, if we had the same system in India, in the final election the contest would become between Rahul Gandhi and Narendra Modi; and every voter of India gets a chance to directly vote and decide the PM of India. And the candidate who gets 50% + 1 of the total votes polled becomes the PM of India. This would be called a Presidential form of election.

Now that you have got this idea; you can very much understand the US elections.

  • There are two main parties in US. The Democrats and the Republican. The Republican is also known as GOP (Grand Old Party). Current POTUS Barack Obama is a Democrat. While the previous US President George Bush was a Republican.
  • This year the frontrunner among Republican candidates is controversial billionaire Donald Trump. He has won the Republican primary election and is now their Presidential Candidate. The contest in Democrats would be between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sander. Chances are that Clinton might win the Democrat Primaries and will become their Presidential candidate.
  • Once that is done, then on 8th of November 2016, the American voters would get a chance to vote between these two main candidates to elect their next President of USA.
  • Like we have 29 states in India; the USA has 50 different states. Each state has been allocated “Electoral College Delegates” proportional to their population size. In all, there are total 538 such delegates in the American Electoral College.
  • On November 8th, all 50 states would go to polls. The results of each states are declared separately.

Now in the final round of elections; any candidate who gets majority of votes in that particular state; wins ALL the “Electoral College Votes” of that state. It is also called “winner takes all” system. For example, the State of Florida has 25 Electoral College Votes. So any candidate who wins majority of votes in Florida; gets all the 25 Electoral College Votes to his/her kitty. Similarly each and every of these 50 state votes are counted and the winner is declared for each and every state separately. With each state’s final results, the “Electoral College Votes” from that state are added to the kitty of the winner in that particular state. Thus, a total of 538 “Electoral College Votes” are at stake. A majority of 270 Electoral College votes is required to become the President of USA.

The winner takes all system is generally aimed at getting a clear mandate and clear majority for leading candidates.

But sometimes even this system becomes just too close to call. Remember; one needs minimum 270 Electoral College votes to become the President of USA. In the much controversial election of 2000, the Republican candidate George W. Bush just barely managed to win 271 electoral college votes, defeating Democrat Al Gore who won 266 electoral college votes. It all came down to one single state of Florida; where Bush polled 48.85 % votes while Al Gore polled 48.84% votes and George W. Bush became the President winning Florida by a razor thin margin of 0.01% votes. This is how close it can get. But elections are all about winning and the winner takes all! As we say in India: Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar !!

So keep a keen eye on the American Election this year. After all it’s all about who is going to be the next most powerful person on Planet Earth!! You can follow our @cvoter #USAtracker polls at @UPI or also at Pollster.com and FiveThirtyEight.com.

Yashwant Deshmukh