Election of the U.S. Presidents and Representatives

Election of the President, Senators and Representatives

Election of the President

On November 7, 2000, Americans elected the 43rd President of the United States. This process was set up in the United States Constitution. The Constitution requires a candidate for the presidency to be:

At least 35 years old
A natural born citizen of the United States
A resident of the United States for 14 years
So how does one become President of the United States? The following steps outline the general process for presidential elections.

Step I: Primaries and Caucuses

There are many people who would like to become President. Each of these people have their own ideas about how our government should work. Some of these people can belong to the same political party. That’s where primaries and caucuses come in.

In Louisiana, the nomination by the parties of their Presidential Candidate is decided on the second Tuesday of the month of March and is referred to as the ‘Presidential Preference Primary Election’. Each elector (aka “voter” ) voting in such election may vote only for a candidate who is affiliated with the same party as the elector

Step 2: National Conventions

At the end of the primaries and caucuses, each party holds a national convention to finalize the selection of one Presidential nominee. During this time, each Presidential candidate chooses a running-mate (or Vice-Presidential candidate).

Step 3: The General (or Popular) Election

Now that each party is represented by one candidate, the general election process begins. Candidates campaign throughout the country in an attempt to win the support of voters. Finally in November, the people vote for one candidate.

When a person casts a vote in the general election, they are not voting directly for an individual Presidential candidate. Instead, voters in each state actually cast their vote for a group of people, known as electors. These electors are part of the Electoral College and are supposed to vote for their state’s preferred candidate.

Step 4: The Electoral College

“In the Electoral College system, each state gets a certain number of electoral votes based on its population. Each state will get a total of electoral votes that equals the number of its Congressional Districts PLUS an elector for each of its two U.S. Senators. Hence, a large state like California currently gets 54 electoral votes, Louisiana gets 9 electoral votes, Rhode Island gets 4 electoral votes, etc.

Of the 50 states, 48 have a winner-take-all policy in the electoral college. This means that if a candidate wins the popular vote in a state, regardless of the margin of victory, that candidate will receive all of the states electoral votes. Maine and Nebraska have a format in which two electors are selected by the statewide popular vote and the remainder by a popular vote within each Congressional district. In addition, some states have adopted laws that require electors to vote for the candidate who wins the statewide popular vote.”

In December (following the general election), the electors cast their votes. When the votes are counted on January 6th, the Presidential candidate that gets more than half (270) wins the election. The President-elect and Vice President-elect take the oath of office and are inaugurated two weeks later, on January 20th.

Election of Senators

Representation in the Senate consists of 2 members per state, regardless of a state’s population. Its members serve for 6-year terms and then are up for reelection. Article I, Section 3 of the Constitution divides the Senate into three groups. Every 2 years, one of the three groups (one-third of the Senate) is up for reelection. Let’s take an example:

Senators elected in the year 2000, will be up for reelection in 2006. Senators elected in 2002 will be up for reelection in 2008. Meanwhile, senators elected in 2004 will be up for reelection in 2010.

In order to be elected to the Senate, there are some requirements a candidate must meet. These qualifications are established in Article I, Section 3 of the Constitution. A candidate must be:

At least 30 years old (by the time s/he takes the oath of office).
A citizen of the U.S. for at least 9 years.
A resident of the state from which s/he is elected.
Many states hold elections to decide which candidates will be on the ballot in the November general election. There can be three types of candidates on a ballot:

Major political party candidates are automatically placed on their state’s primary ballot.
Minor party candidates are chosen by their party’s unique guidelines.
Independent candidates nominate themselves.
If a candidate is not opposed then there is no need for a primary and his/her name is automatically placed on the November ballot. The candidate who receives the most votes wins the election.

Before 1913, senators were chosen by their state legislatures, not the people. The 17th Amendment to the Constitution states that senators are to be elected by the people they represent.

 

Election of Representatives

The House of Representatives has a fixed number of 435 members. Its members serve for two years and then are up for reelection. In order to be elected to the House of Representatives, there are some requirements a candidate must meet. These qualifications are established in Article I, Section 2 of the Constitution. A candidate must be:

At least 25 years old (by the time s/he takes the oath of office).
A citizen of the U.S. for at least 7 years.
A resident of the state from which they are elected.
Since representation in the House is based on a state’s population, every 10 years the U.S. Bureau of the Census counts how many people live in each state of the United States. Each state is broken down into congressional districts and there is one representative for each district. Every state has at least one congressional district. With each new census, the number of districts (and representatives) in each state is then adjusted.

For example, the 1990 Census increased the number of California representatives from 45 to 52.

Many states hold elections to decide which candidates will be on the ballot in the November general election. There can be three types of candidates on a ballot:

Major political party candidates are automatically placed on their state’s primary ballot.
Minor party candidates are chosen by their party’s unique guidelines.
Independent candidates nominate themselves.
If a candidate is not opposed then there is no need for a primary and his/her name is automatically placed on the November ballot. The candidate who receives the most votes wins the election.

Senate and Representative elections differ in who votes for the candidates. While all voters in a state may vote in a senatorial election, only those in a specific congressional district may vote for a representative for that district.

 

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