U.S. Presidential Elections – American Culture & English Vocabulary
Politics and politicians are always in the news, but during an election year people pay more attention to the political scene. If you’re like to follow the U.S. presidential elections, you’ll need some basic facts and relevant vocabulary. Let me help you. In the U.S. we hold presidential elections every four years. So either we elect a new president, or re re-elect the current president. A president can serve two terms. 4 and 4. That’s a total of 8 possible years in office. The presidential elections (Election Day) are always in November and always on a Tuesday. I believe it’s the Tuesday after the first Monday of November. But the election process begins long before November. First, we have the primary elections, or the primaries. It’s the more common process at the state level. There’s also something called a caucus, which several states have. It’s like a large meeting. But the primary elections are what I’m familiar with as a voter. The primary elections are generally held in the spring of the election year. How you vote in the primaries can depend on what political party you’re affiliated with. In the U.S. we have two major political parties. The Republican Party and the Democratic Party. But there are other smaller parties. The rules in the primaries can vary from state to state, but usually you vote for a candidate within your political party. The primary election and the general election use a secret ballot, meaning no one gets to see which candidate you choose. Here’s a bonus fact. Basically, there are two types of primary elections. In a closed primary, you have to vote for a candidate within your party. So if you’re registered as a Republican, you have to choose from among the Republican candidates. In an open primary, you can vote in the primary of your choice. So even if you’re registered as a Republican, you can vote for a candidate of any party. So states hold the primary elections to help determine a party’s candidate That’s the person who will represent the party in the general election held in November. Basically, there are two people who run for president. Two people from the two major political parties. Of course, there can be other official candidates coming from the smaller parties. All the presidential candidates campaign. They work to gain people’s votes. They visit states, they give interviews, they create campaign ads for TV and radio. Here’s another bonus fact. The Republican Party is also sometimes known as the GOP. That stands for the Grand Old Party. After the primaries, after the caucuses, there’s a national convention. Each party has one. This is a large gathering that has become a combination of a rally, a party, a show, a collection of speeches. If the primaries gave very clear results, then the national convention is really just an opportunity to confirm the party’s candidate. but by the end of the national convention, one candidate has won the party’s nomination. That person is the presidential nominee. Each party has one. Once we know who the candidates are, they choose their running mates. These are their choices for vice president. They start campaigning together in order to win the general election in November. When we say a candidate is on the campaign trail, it means they’re busy traveling to key states in order to speak to crowds of voters. As you know, there are 50 U.S. states. In elections, we talk about red states, blue states, and swing states. A red state usually votes for a Republican. A blue state usually votes for a Democrat. Swing states can go either way, so presidential nominees usually spend more time and money campaigning in swing states. Here’s another bonus fact. The interesting and maybe confusing thing about U.S. presidential elections is that we balance a popular vote by the people with a vote by representatives within a body of government. In the primaries, candidates try to win delegates. Those are people who represent voters in a state. In the general election, we have the Electoral College. This is also a group of representatives called electors. And they also represent state populations. States with bigger populations have more representatives So California has a larger population, therefore, more electors compared to a smaller state, like Rhodes Island. Each voter casts a vote. And that vote does count in the general election. But in the end, it’s an indirect vote because because the president is elected by the Electoral College. The strange thing is that a presidential candidate could lose the popular vote, but be elected by the Electoral College. That’s because in almost all of the 50 states it’s a winner-take-all system. Whoever wins the majority of votes, wins all the votes of those electors in a state. So the results of the Electoral College can be more decisive. A presidential candidate has to win the majority of votes (in the Electoral College) in order to get elected. Currently, that number is 270. Every city has a number of polling locations or voting locations. These are places where people cast their votes. Often a polling location is a public school. Public schools are closed on Election Day for this reason. So in November we hold the general election. We vote for president and we choose our electors. Then in December the electors meet. There’s the vote by the Electoral College. But that’s not quite the end. Finally, a winner is announced. But we still have to wait till January of the following year for the inauguration ceremony. That’s when the new president is sworn into office. He or she takes the Oath of Office for four years. Final bonus fact: But the President can exit the White House early in one of three ways: by death, by impeachment (which is like the country saying, “You’re fired.”), or resignation (which is when the President says, “I quit.”) I hope this review of the U.S. presidential election process was useful. Thanks for watching and happy studies!